KAIROS and Otesha Youth Bike Tour Builds Bridges of Understanding

KAIROS blanket exercise

Originally published on Aug. 8, 2013 /CNW/

The KAIROS and Otesha Nation to Nation Bike Tour is on a roll through southeastern Ontario building bridges of understanding and respect between communities and Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth through dynamic educational activities and public events.

The Nation to Nation Bike Tour is a joint initiative of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives and The Otesha Project.  KAIROS is a faith-based social justice organization that focuses on ecological sustainability, human rights and Indigenous rights.  The Otesha Project is a youth-led organization that uses bike tours, theatre, experiential activities and storytelling to inspire people of all ages to create positive social change.

The bike tour’s 14 participants are cycling along the St. Lawrence River, from the Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) communities of Akwesasne to Tyendinaga, learning from each other and from the Indigenous and non-Indigenous host communities along the way what it means to live in right relations.

The group is spending today in Kingston, Ontario where they’ll hold a public event tonight that features the increasingly popular KAIROS Blanket Exercise, a participatory workshop developed by KAIROS in collaboration with Indigenous elders more than a decade ago.

The Blanket Exercise is a highly engaging activity that uses blankets to represent the lands of what is now Canada.  Used in introductory work on nation to nation relationships, it often stirs emotions as the exercise guides participants, standing on their blanket ‘land’, through a history of treaty making, colonization and resistance that continues to this day.

“KAIROS is committed to building respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. These relationships recognize Indigenous peoples as distinct peoples and nations, with rights to land and self-determination,” says KAIROS Indigenous Rights Program Coordinator, Katy Quinn. “We’re also committed to engaging youth on these issues in creative ways. This is why we’re so excited to be partnering with The Otesha Project”.

The two and a half week project got underway last week when the tour participants, most of whom are in their 20s, spent several days meeting and learning from elders and community members in Akwesasne.  Following a big community launch, they set off on the cycling portion of the tour.

After stops in Cornwall, Morrisburg, Prescott, Brockville and Ganonoque where they’ve been hosted by church groups, the participants are now spending time in Kingston before heading to Tyendinaga this coming weekend for a community pow wow.

“The Nation to Nation Tour’s focus on building right relationships fits with Otesha’s vision of empowering youth to create positive social change,” says Otesha Tour Coordinator Matt Schaaf. “This tour has brought together a diverse and talented group of young people for what we hope will be a life-changing experience”.

Everything wraps up with an end-of-tour retreat near Belleville where participants will evaluate what’s been learned and discuss next steps.

Tour members are blogging and tweeting about their experiences.  Follow along at:  @oteshaproject, @oteshaontour, @kairoscanada. For further information visit: www.kairoscanada.org and www.otesha.ca.

Image with caption: “Participants at a KAIROS Blanket Exercise workshop (CNW Group/KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives)”. Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130808_C4856_PHOTO_EN_29717.jpg




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