A new historic protocol has been put in place to open the monthly Toronto City Council meetings. As of last week, the Speaker (Frances Nunziata) announced that following the singing of the national anthem, the Speaker will acknowledge that Toronto is traditional Indigenous territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.
The motion to do so came to the attention of Idle No More Toronto organizers via ally Miguel Avila-Velarde, a City Hall Monitor – after City Councillor Kristin Wong-Tam had made mention of this protocol in January. According to Councillor Mike Layton, acknowledging the Mississuagas of New Credit is something that he and several other City Councillors have been doing for months.
“We have been doing this for about eight months now, making the acknowledgment, and this time the speaker did it – that was the goal.”
Layton says that he and the other councillors had been consulting with the Equity and Human Rights Committee, Aboriginal Affairs Committee, along with Mississaugas of New Credit Chief Brian LaForme for proper protocol in the acknowledgement of Toronto as Indigenous territory. Idle No More Toronto has also been consulting with Six Nations clan mothers, and last month made a presentation to the Toronto City Council Executive Committee. Idle No More Toronto asked the committee to consider the diverse history of Toronto when honouring its Indigenous traditional territory.
The territory that is now known as Toronto has a rich history that extends thousands of years before European settlers arrived. Despite initiatives like the First Story Toronto and its Indigenous Toronto history App, and the Ogimaa Mikana Project, (a project that renames Toronto’s city streets in Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) there still remains a great disconnect for settler Torontonians regarding the Indigenous roots of Toronto. The word “Toronto” itself, originates from the Kanienke’haka word “Tkaronto” which translates to, “the place in the water where the trees are standing”. The reference is said to come from Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat fishers posting stakes for fishing weirs in the narrows of the river systems, many of which are now mostly paved over with concrete.
Tkaronto has a diverse history for many Nations (not just Haudenosaunee, Wendat, Anishinaabe, and Algonquin) due to its abundance of food sources and vast network of rivers which offered easy travel between portage narrows located along what is now known as Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Couchiching. These networks formed trade routes with particular stops along the way, and according to local Elders, Tkaronto was certainly one of them. Many Indigenous traders would meet in Tkaronto to network, trade, and form alliances, and then continue along the portage routes.
Though Tkaronto has a history of traditional settlement from many Nations, the Anishnabek now refer to this territory as belonging to the Mississaugas of the New Credit, as they had established territories and settlements around the area that is Toronto at the time of contact. As a Haudenosaunee person, however, it is important to me, and to other Haudenosaunee people I know to acknowledge our own connection and birth right to this land. We have ancestors here; there are many Haudenosaunee burial mounds across various places throughout Tkaronto. We also have an important peace treaty with the Anishinaabek, known as the One Dish One Spoon Wampum, which is an agreement to peaceably share resources of territories in vast regions of the Great Lakes which were in close proximity to each other.*
While the acknowledgement of Indigenous territories in Toronto is certainly a big step in the right direction– there is room for a deeper and more inclusive acknowledgement of the Indigenous history of this land. Here’s an idea: why not acknowledge the Indigenous territory of Toronto as One Dish One Spoon Indigenous territory? This treaty agreement is still acknowledged by both Anishinaabek and Haudenosaunee people to this day. This inclusive acknowledgement embraces diverse Indigenous history as told by Indigenous people when recognizing our deep connection to the land. Personally I have always thought it poignant that the City of Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, as it has always had a history for being a Meeting Place, and for being diverse in its traditional roots. Hopefully as the acknowledgement of Indigenous territory becomes more accepted as critical protocol, the diversity of Indigenous ancestry for Tkaronto will also be acknowledged.
* Dish with One Spoon
(An excerpt by the Well Living House Counsel of Grandparents)
Historically, treaties designed by Indigenous peoples in North America were created as mutually beneficial agreements between one another. The ‘Dish with One Spoon’ was one of the most common of these inter-nation treaties. It was designed to create peaceful hunting conditions for nations in close proximity to each other.
Described as ‘one-dish alliances,’ these treaties identified a specific area of territory to be held in common. Just as family members ate from ‘one dish,’ so too would nations eat from one common hunting ground. Through one-dish alliances, two nations agreed to share the same hunting territory without conflicts over land and its resources. Wampum belts were crafted and these belts were symbols of these agreements.
The concept of ‘Dish with One Spoon’ is still relevant in contemporary culture with all the nations across Turtle Island; First Nations continue to use a ‘one-dish protocol’ and request permission from their First Nations neighbors to hunt, fish and trap on their lands. The protocol also allows food and medicines to be harvested, and grants the right to travel across the lands.
**Niawen’kowa, Chi Miigwech to MUSKRAT Editor-in-Chief for a successful Anishinaabek/Haudenosaunee collaborative effort in the writing of this piece!
*Download the First Story App to learn about the rich Aboriginal History of Toronto.