Dish With One Spoon

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The Dish With One Spoon, also known as the One Dish One Spoon, is a wampum treaty originally made between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee, and covering territories in the St. Lawrence lowlands and Great Lakes Basin of North America, including parts of Ontario, Quebec, New York, and Michigan.

Today, some see the treaty as a covenant that applies to all those living in Southern Ontario, including Indigenous peoples not party to the original treaty, as well as settlers and newcomers.[1][2] The Dish With One Spoon has been incorporated into many territorial acknowledgements for organizations and institutions in the Toronto area, including the Council of Ontario Universities[3] and ministries of the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada.[4]

History of the treaty[edit]

The Dish With One Spoon was a common metaphor and recurring phrase used in Indigenous diplomacy, particularly among Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region[5], although records indicate it also extended as far south as The Carolinas.[6] The phrase was used to refer to the stewardship of shared territories and hunting grounds ("the dish") and the collective responsibility to ensure there was always enough game and fish to eat for all. Sometimes other terms, such as bowl, were used in place of dish.[5]

Written records shown that the one-dish metaphor was used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.[6][5] The use of the metaphor also predates the arrival of Europeans as it was used by the Great Peacemaker in oral histories of the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy and referenced in the Great Law of Peace.[5][7]

According to Tuscarora historian Rick Hill, the Dish With One Spoon is believed by some to be a pre-contact agreement and the earliest known example of a North American treaty.[8] Others trace the origins of the treaty to events occurring after the arrival of Europeans, notably the fur trade,[5] and have linked the treaty with a series of peace negotiations that took place in the late 1600s during the Beaver Wars.[6][5][9]

History of the wampum[edit]

The Dish With One Spoon treaty was recorded in one or possibly multiple wampum belts over the years.[5]

During a treaty gathering in 1840, Six Nations wampum keeper John Skanawati Buck[10] presented four wampum belts, including one which commemorated the Dish with One Spoon.[5] The belt was kept at Six Nations of the Grand River by John Skanawati Buck until his death in 1893,[5][11] after which time the belts in his possession were dispersed, with some sold to traders and collectors. The belt was later recorded to be in possession of Evelyn H.C. Johnson who donated it to the Royal Ontario Museum in 1922.[5][11]

The belt currently resides at the Royal Ontario Museum.[12] It is mostly made of white whelk shells with a small area of purple quahog clam shells in the centre of the belt representing the dish.[8] This treaty was made by the Indigenous people.


  1. ^ "Land Acknowledgement". Ryerson School of Journalism. Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Ogimaa Mikana: Reclaiming/Renaming". Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Acknowledgement of Traditional Land". Council of Ontario Universities. Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Territorial Acknowledgements". Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada. Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lytwyn, Victor P. (1997). "A Dish with One Spoon: The Shared Hunting Grounds Agreement in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Valley Region". Papers of the Twenty-eighth Algonquian Conference. 28: 210–227. 
  6. ^ a b c Shoemaker, Nancy (2006). A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-Century North America. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 86–88. ISBN 0195307100. 
  7. ^ Hill, Susan M. (2017). The Clay We Are Made Of: Haudenosaunee Land Tenure on the Grand River. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press. ISBN 9780887557170. 
  8. ^ a b Nahwegahbow, Barb (2014). "Wampum holds power of earliest agreements". Windspeaker. 32 (1). 
  9. ^ "A History of Treaty-Making in Canada". Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  10. ^ Fine-Dare, Kathleen Sue (2002). Grave Injustice: The American Indian Repatriation Movement and NAGPRA. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. p. 93. ISBN 9780803269088. 
  11. ^ a b Tooker, Elisabeth (1998). "A Note on the Return of Eleven Wampum Belts to the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy on Grand River, Canada". Ethnohistory. 45 (2): 219–236. 
  12. ^ Simpson, Leanne (2008). "Looking after Gdoo-naaganinaa: Precolonial Nishnaabeg Diplomatic and Treaty Relationships". Wicazo Sa Review. 23 (2): 29–42.