ECCU 400

Can We Really Be In Their Shoes?

This week I was able to participate in The Blanket Exercise. But before I get started on that, here is a little bit of information taken straight from the website

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is an interactive learning experience that teaches the Indigenous rights history we’re rarely taught. Developed in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—which recommended education on Canadian-Indigenous history as one of the key steps to reconciliation, the Blanket Exercise covers over 500 years of history in a one and a half hour participatory workshop.

Blanket Exercise participants take on the roles of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Standing on blankets that represent the land, they walk through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. They are directed by facilitators representing a narrator (or narrators) and the European colonizers. Participants are drawn into the experience by reading scrolls and carrying cards which ultimately determine their outcomes. By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy. Ideally, the exercise is followed by a debriefing session in which participants have the opportunity to discuss the experience as a group. This often takes the form of a talking circle.

So back to me…

This was not the first time I have participated in this exercise. I actually had the opportunity last year to go through it with my third year cohort. So going into this I knew what to expect and what was going to happen et cetera, et cetera.

HOWEVER…

It was a completely different experience! Last time, I was one of the first people sit down, but this time I ended up making it to the end so I got a different perspective. There were also things that I picked up on that I didn’t the first time, such as after the apology by Stephen Harper is read, the European would say sorry every time he did something (sometimes he meant it, other time not so much). But the big question is…

Where did the Blanket Exercise take me on my treaty walk?

And to be honest, I think it helped me move forward and come just a tiny, bit closer to figuring out what it means to being a Treaty Person. During the exercise, we were all given a chance to see what it is like to be in the shoes of Indigenous people. We get to feel what it is like to have something taken from us whether it be the land we were standing on or a doll we were given to be our child. However, are we really being put in their shoes? Yes, I stood on a blanket that was just big enough for myself to stand on but do I know what it was like to be taken from my home and placed on a reserve? The answer is no. At the end of the day, I get to step off the blanket, but Indigenous people…well…they have to stay on that “blanket.” So even though we can do these kinds of exercises that put us in their shoes, we will never know what it is actually like because at the end of the day, we get to go on with our lives, as if nothing really changed.

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