Reading the Talk presents contemporary artists engaging in critical conversations about relationships to land, and considering distinct indigenous perspectives in the history of treaties in this country now referred to as Canada. After learning about the history of the Dish with One Spoon Treaty and wampum from artist Bonnie Devine and Elder Jan Longboat, curators Rachelle Dickenson and Lisa Myers invited artists who address issues of territory, trade, and treaty history to consider this accord.

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Nations negotiated the Dish with One Spoon Treaty to share hunting grounds in the regions north and south of the Great Lakes. Historian Leanne Simpson describes this diplomacy as a way for two nations to share territory while maintaining independence. Wampum belt, a belt-like object woven with two kinds of beads, is symbolic in bead count, colour and design. It functions as a mnemonic device for leaders to “read the talk” of agreements established and renewed between nations. This exhibition elucidates the continuing role of wampum for indigenous peoples. Through a deep engagement with materials, technique and narrative, the works featured in Reading the Talk contribute to a conversation about the ways in which land is valued.

Organized and circulated by The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in collaboration with Museum London, Art Gallery of Peterborough and MacLaren Art Centre.