Land Acknowledgement

ypt building

Young People’s Theatre is situated on lands and waterways that have known human activity for thousands of years. We are privileged today to be able to enjoy the benefits of this land, which supports all that we do. The original caretakers of this territory have always known how to benefit from the land and water, and still ensure that future generations will have what they need to live. The territory that YPT stands upon is that of the Dish With One Spoon Covenant. This agreement made amongst Indigenous nations governs how to share the resources that the land and water provide. At the centre of the agreement is the image of a single dish that holds all the bounty and one spoon to draw from that dish. The agreement: everyone will only take what they need, always ensuring that something is left for those who follow. The Dish With One Spoon agreement remains in effect to this day. All nations are invited to live by its terms.

Many Indigenous peoples refer to North America as Turtle Island, a reference to an origin story common within oral histories. In this narrative, the whole world was at one time flooded with a great sea and there was no land. Though many animals tried, the tiny muskrat sacrificed his life by diving to the bottom of the water to retrieve a handful of mud, which was then placed on the back of a turtle. This earth grew into what is now called North America by many. The image of the great turtle bearing the earth and the people on its back is a reminder of the deep respect owed to the environment supporting us.

The City of Toronto takes its name from an Indigenous word, t’karonto, which describes where there are trees standing in the water. The word could illustrate many locations – but because French explorers put it on a map, it became a place name, Taronto. The area of northern Lake Ontario, where the City of Toronto is now located, has been the territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Six Nations, which includes the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca and Tuscarora, and the Wyandot Nation. More recently, this is also the territory of Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit, who are part of the Anishinaabe Nation. Other nations, both recorded and not recorded also made this area their home.

Today, Toronto is still home to Indigenous, Inuit and Métis people. Miigwetch, nya:weh, merci and thank you to the people on whose territory we are able to live and thrive. We pledge to turn our acknowledgement into action – to be partners with them in caring for the land and water.

Before the beginning of every performance or event at YPT, a staff member is entrusted to present a personalized land acknowledgement to the audience/group. This acknowledgement is designed to:

  • touch on the agreements and treaties of the land
  • speak of the Nations of Peoples that have and continue to call this land home
  • express why they feel connected to the land through a personal anecdote or reflection

YPT staff have taken part in a land acknowledgement workshop with YPT Community Engagement Facilitator Lindy Kinoshameg and Artist Educator Leslie McCue. The group explored each participant’s relationship to the land, its untold history, and what it means to call this place home.

Each person places a different yet personal meaning into their individual land acknowledgement. The purpose is to show these are not just words being read from a paper, but that the person presenting them knows what Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee mean, where the Dish with One Spoon agreement comes from, and why it is important to express this understanding.

Here is a land acknowledgement from Isabelle Siciliano, YPT Development Officer:

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to Young People’s Theatre for today’s performance.

I would like to begin by saying YPT is situated on lands and waterways that have known human activity for more than 15,000 years. I never feel more strongly connected to my grandfather than when I find myself near a tomato vine. I feel a great sense of comfort and nurture from the land, as my grandfather loved to grow tomatoes and never missed a day where he would tend to his garden. It is an instant connection through which I feel closer to him and am reminded of his love. For that, to the land, I am eternally grateful.

We acknowledge the ancestral lands of the Dish with One Spoon Territory, and more recently Treaty 13. This includes the Mississaugas of the Credit who are part of the Anishinaabe Nation, the Wyandot Nation, also the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Six Nations, and any other Nation, recorded or unrecorded.

Miigwech, Nya-weh, Thank you for letting us gather here today.

To learn more about the INDIGENizeUS program at YPT, click here.