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Acknowledging Territory

Territorial acknowledgements are becoming more common in our churches, classrooms, and other public spaces. But to many of us, they’re still new and unfamiliar. What are they, and why—and how—do we do them?  Read more in this resource Territorial Acknowledgements prepared by Ren Ito, Social Justice Animator, Living Waters and Toronto Southeast Presbyteries. 

Examples to share

Following are a list of examples of territorial acknowledgements that are currently in use in the area of Toronto Conference.   


KAIROS Canada

The KAIROS Toronto office is on the historical territory of the Huron-Wendat, Petun, Seneca and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the New Credit Indigenous peoples. This territory is covered by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee and the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the lands and resources around the Great Lakes.


Emmanuel College, University of Toronto

Statement on Acknowledgement of Traditional Land
Adapted from a revised statement by the Elders Circle (Council of Aboriginal Initiatives) from November 6, 2014

As we gather together (at Emmanuel College), we acknowledge this sacred land on which the University of Toronto operates. It has been a site of human activity for 15,000 years. This land is the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.

We are also mindful of broken covenants and the need to strive to make right with all our relations.


Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto 

Bathurst Street United has adopted the practise of preparing a three-part acknowledgment that includes:

  • The Territorial Acknowledgment as follows: We acknowledge that we walk upon the traditional territories of the Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation, Anishnawbe, Haudenosaunee [ho-deh-no-SHAW-nee], Wendat, and Huron Indigenous Peoples, the original nations of this land, who continue to cry out for justice.
  • A Short Reference to a current story related to Aboriginal justice and life
  • A reference to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 

From Tina Conlon, Community Minister at Davenport-Perth

Toronto is home to a large Indigenous population including residential school survivors and intergenerational family members who have been impacted by the history and legacy of the residential school system.

The sacred land on which we stand has been a site of human activity for 15,000 years. This land is the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.

Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.


Dish With One Spoon Territory — a deeper acknowledgement

In considering the inclusion of a territorial acknowledgement at the regular meetings of Toronto City Council, Jamaias DaCosta suggests that a deeper acknowledgement would include The Dish With One Spoon Wampum, an early Indigenous treaty to peaceably share the resources of the Great Lakes region. Read the article in April 11, 2014 Muskrat Magazine article, TORONTO AKA TKARONTO PASSES NEW CITY COUNCIL PROTOCOL.


 South West Presbytery, Toronto Conference

As we begin today, we acknowledge the history, spirituality, culture, and stewardship of the land of the Indigenous people of this region, most recently the Mississaugas of the New Credit, who are Anishinaabe Ojibwe people. 
We seek to live in respect, peace, and right relations with them as we live, work, and worship upon their traditional territory. 
We are mindful of broken covenants and the need to strive to make right with all our relations.


Ryerson University 

“Toronto is in the ‘Dish With One Spoon Territory’. The Dish With One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. Subsequent Indigenous Nations and peoples, Europeans and all newcomers have been invited into this treaty in the spirit of peace, friendship and respect.”

The “Dish”, or sometimes it is called the “Bowl”, represents what is now southern Ontario, from the Great Lakes to Quebec and from Lake Simcoe into the United States. *We all eat out of the Dish, all of us that share this territory, with only one spoon. That means we have to share the responsibility of ensuring the dish is never empty, which includes taking care of the land and the creatures we share it with. Importantly, there are no knives at the table, representing that we must keep the peace. The dish is graphically represented by the wampum pictured above.

This was a treaty made between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee after the French and Indian War. Newcomers were then incorporated into it over the years, notably in 1764 with The Royal Proclamation/The Treaty of Niagara.


Sharing with Two Voices 

This is an example of an acknowledgement that is not read as a statement but offered as a time of sharing about and reflecting on personal/collective connections to the land.  This two-reader format was written by Ren Ito and Jeffrey Dale as a way to invite people to share   with each other about their ties to the land, as a way of situating themselves, literally and figuratively/morally/politically, in the land.

Reader A: Since time immemorial, many different peoples have called this land home. The north shore of Lake Ontario has been inhabited by many Huron, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabek peoples: the Wendat, the Petun, the Seneca, the Ojibwe, the Mississaugas. Today, Toronto and the surrounding area are home to many indigenous people and nations.

Reader B: We each have our own personal ties to this land, and to others.

Reader B shares briefly about their connections to the land. Example:
I was born in Winnipeg, on Treaty 1 lands, and chose to come to Toronto, where I now live, as an adult. My ancestors came to Turtle Island from Britain in the 19th century, settling around Lake Ontario before moving west to the Prairies.

Reader A shares.

Reader A: We invite you now to turn to someone seated near you, and spend a couple of minutes sharing your stories—of how you or your ancestors came to be here, of your connections to the land, of other lands that you have roots in.

At the sound of _______ (e.g. drum), we will call you back together.

Several minutes of sharing; then, call together.

Reader B: Long ago, Ojibwe and Haudenosaunee nations and their allies agreed to share this land peacefully. The image they used to seal this agreement was of a dish with one spoon: one land, to be shared by all.

Since then, however, the land has not always been shared. Peoples have been displaced; lands and waters have been abused; children have been taken from their families; women and girls have been assaulted and murdered; communities have been destroyed; and ways of being have been stamped out. The violence of white European colonisation has deeply wounded the land and its indigenous peoples. Today, much of that violence continues.

Reader A: Together, we acknowledge our different connections to this land, and we strive to live rightly, with the land and with each other.


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