As a part of our Indigenous Education for Newcomers Initiative, CFN recently hosted the KAIROS Blanket Exercise workshop, a workshop that explores the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Blankets are arranged on the floor to represent land and participants are invited to step into the roles of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples.
The workshop helps individuals to understand the impact of the colonization of this land on those who were here long before settlers arrived. It engages people’s minds and hearts in understanding why the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is often broken and how we can work together to mend this.
In 1996, the Aboriginal Rights Coalition worked with Indigenous elders and teachers to develop an interactive way of learning the history most Canadians are never taught. The Blanket Exercise was the result; it has since been offered thousands of times and the fourth edition was released in 2016.
The Blanket Exercise is based on participatory popular education methodology and the goal is to build an understanding of our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. Everyone is actively involved as he or she steps onto blankets that represent the land, and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples. By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy.
The Indigenous Education Newcomers program at the Centre for Newcomers creates opportunities through its various activities, including dialogue circles and story telling, to bring newcomers and indigenous participants together. These activities promote discussions, in order to honour different historical and cultural perspectives; to create bridges of understanding and appreciation on both sides.
One of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is that the information kit for newcomers be revised “to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Indigenous peoples of Canada including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools” (TRC, 2015, p.10). In July 2017, CFN held the official launch celebration of the Indigenous Education for Newcomers program.
In partnership with an advisory group of representatives from immigrant serving agencies and indigenous services, the program supports efforts aimed at ending cycles of systemic discrimination faced by indigenous people. This is facilitated by culturally appropriate educational workshops on indigenous issues, meaningful partnerships that seek to create alliances for public education and creating awareness among partners and within the broader community. For more information on Indigenous Education for Newcomer workshops and events here at CFN, visit our website at www.centrefornewcomers.ca