Experiential lesson in Golden helps toward reconcilliation

The Blanket Exercise was developed as a way to participate in a real life interactive history lesson about Canadian-Indigenous history as a key step to reconciliation.

Metis Nation Columbia River Society (MNCRS) invited the community to participate in a Blanket Exercise at the seniors’ centre February 23. The afternoon included soup-making, the Blanket Exercise, a discussion afterwards, and a nice hot meal.

“People who run through it for the first time have never heard our history,” said MNCRS’ Monica Lavoie. “The event went really well. We had a really good turnout.”

Everyone helped to build the soups, and while they were cooking they started on the introduction to the exercise. The Blanket Exercise was developed as a response to the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996 by KAIROS Canada. The report recommended education as a step toward reconciliation, and the Blanket Exercise covers more than 500 years in a 90-minute experiential workshop.

The Blanket Exercise begins with participants walking around on blankets that are laid out on the floor, representing the land. Then, they read through scripts, which determine outcomes as they walk through situations from pre-contact to treaty making, colonization, and resistance.

“It’s a very eye-opening experience,” Lavoie said. “You don’t learn about these things in school.”

Facilitators read through the script and represent European settlers and explorers. Afterwards, everyone participated in a debriefing in a talking circle to discuss what they had learned. They each took turns holding the talking stick and explained their experience and feelings toward the exercise.

The Blanket Exercise has been held in Invermere before by MNCRS at schools, Aboriginal Day, at the youth centre, and more. MNCRS was happy to facilitate the exercise in Golden, and had a good turn out for the event.

“It is still very, very powerful,” Lavoie said.

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