My experience of The Blanket Exercise


I never thought that the name ‘The blanket exercise’ gave the activity the justice it deserves, although this is how the activity was created and is commonly known. It is originally from the KAIROS, a joint venture by the United Church of Canada as an advocacy for social change.

I’ve been a workshop facilitator for over 15 years, I have facilitated hundreds of very valuable and meaningful lessons to a variety of audiences, but this is definitely a presentation that is very dear to my heart. It is my story, as much as it is all our story.

The blanket exercise is an activity where participants explore the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, and explore a timeline of over 500 years. Blankets arranged on the floor represent land, or ‘Turtle Island’ known by the Indigenous peoples, and each participant plays a part, by stepping into the roles of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. I added my own touches to the presentation by noting some dates, specific stories and names that participants might relate to. When people leave, they will have a new, deeper understanding of the history, like they haven’t before. The activity really ties together all of the points of things we may have heard about such as the Indian Act, residential schools and the 60’s scoop.

I was moved by the growing interest of Winnipeggers wanting to learn what the indigenous history and reality, really is, and I felt called to step into the role of a knowledge-sharer and put together a workshop called Indigenous Insights Seminar, which includes the activity and much of the knowledge I collected and learned about as an urban, Indigenous adult. We also touch base on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, some background on where the ‘Calls to Action’ came from, and I also present an opportunity to learn about some traditions you might see in our region such as the value of ‘passing tobacco’.

The recognition of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action was definitely a driver to sharing this knowledge. I give credit to the leadership that Senator Murray Sinclair in starting the movement to reconciling Canada and we all have a part to play. This is part of my journey.

I was honored to share this presentation with the board of directors and staff at the Winnipeg Chamber and received valuable feedback, click this link. This is my community. I want my children to one day be teaching this workshop and for this knowledge to be shared widely and openly and never be hidden again.


Originally published on Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce website on Feb 14, 2017 by Jessica Dumas
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