Caretaker of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt

Posted: 13th September 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Did you ever go to a meeting expecting the usual information sharing and end up smack dab in the middle of a ceremony?  It’s a little like heading to the hardware store to zip through your to-do list and ending up attending a wedding.  This happened to me today.  It was awesome.

At our system Administrator’s meeting, we were welcomed and educated by the board’s Indigenous Education team.  We were then each offered a Dish with One Spoon wampum belt to be used in our schools.  This wasn’t our typical “go get in line to take these new resources for your school” kind of giveaway but a ceremony; we had to thoughtfully and publicly acknowledge our willingness to accept the responsibility of using the wampum for school education and community building but also to accept it as a treaty of friendship.

If you aren’t familiar with wampum belts, and the Dish with One Spoon Wampum specifically, here’s a synopsis that our board team provided:

“The Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt represents the treaty relationship between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Anishinaabe with respect to sharing the land and resources thereon.  Wampum guarantees a message or a promise.  The “Dish” or sometimes called the “Bowl” represents what is now known as southern Ontario.  We all eat out of the same Dish with only one spoon ensuring that our Dish is never empty.  This symbolizes our roles and responsibilities of sustaining the land and natural resources and treating each other and all living things with equity and respect.  By utilizing the spoon, as opposed to a knife or fork which could draw blood, we are consciously choosing to maintain peace between all people who come into agreement under this treaty.  Treaties mean nothing unless they are accompanied by wampum.  Belts were given and received as treaties as seals of friendship.”  (HWDSB’s Commitment to Indigenous Education document)

Tonight I’ve been reflecting about what this means to me.  First of all, I love the symbolism and messaging that is the background story of this wampum; it aligns so well with many of the other messages we share and teach at school.  However, I don’t currently feel that I have enough learning to be comfortable supporting the education of staff and students on the ideas, perspective, history and traditions of the Indigenous people and their experience.  But, I am willing (and eager) to learn.  While the wampum belt I received today is a symbol of the treaty and a tool to be used in education, I feel like it is also a concrete anchor – a catalyst – to the learning that needs to happen.  And learning IS uncomfortable at times.  I feel fortunate that we have such an accessible team of people that can help me and the staff and students to support this learning.  So, while we’ve been asked to find a champion at each school to lead the learning on this, I am selfishly going to take it on myself.  I don’t want to just say a land acknowledgement statement or display the wampum belt in the office.  I want to know how to learn from it, to minimize my ignorance and bias, and maximize the effect it can have on those around me.

It feels like I’m starting a “new” year with excitement about the unknown in front of me and where I can go and what I can learn.  What’s your new September learning excitement?

  1. adunsige says:

    Kristi, I love that you’ve been so open with this learning, and that you’re going to take it on as your new learning for this year. I can’t wait to see/hear what you do. I’m curious to hear what other administrators do as well. I hope that there might be some tweets or blog posts with sharing throughout the year.

    As for my September learning excitement, I think I may need to write a post of my own. Stay tuned! Maybe a weekend write for this week. 🙂


  2. Lisa Noble says:


    what a beautiful way for your indigenous learning team to ask administrators to join with them in the responsibility of sharing teachings. I was following the tweets from the indigenous leads meeting yesterday. I teach at a school which serves an indigenous reserve community, and had a phenomenal opportunity last year to co-teach with our Ojibwe teacher. I learned so much, and am hoping to blog about some of it this year. I need to share this because my co-teacher died, unexpectedly, this summer, and one of my most powerful experiences was being able to be part of the ceremony to say goodbye to her.

    I’m sure that you will do a remarkable job as the “champion” in your school, because you are open to learning and sharing, and those are the key skills required.