Seeing, hearing for yourself, and experiencing the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada is something that a group of people in Strathmore practiced last night at the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.
The free public education session was held at the Strathmore Civic Centre. Participants got the chance to experience a point of view from First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada from colonization through the residential school system and ‘60s Scoop.
The event was put on in collaboration with the Town of Strathmore, Aspen Family Learning, Strathmore FCSS and the Government of Alberta. It was facilitated by Charlotte Yellowhorn-McLeod.
“This is the KAIROS Blanket Exercise and the blankets signify the landmass of Canada,” explained Yellowhorn-McLeod. She explained that there were artifacts on each of the blankets and dolls that represent children.
“We talk about the history of colonialism, residential schools, and ‘60s Scoop and this is an experiential exercise,” she said.
Yellowhorn-McLeod opened the session with a prayer, and a short video, and then people were welcomed into the circle where she spoke of the tribes in the area, went over basic definitions and an explanation of the treaty process.
Shelly Wade, team lead for Aspen Family Services, which operates the Aspen Hand-in-Hand Parent Link Centre explained the purpose of the event.
“It is a public education event to bring awareness about the indigenous history, and we do this through an experiential exercise called the KAIROS blanket exercise.”
She noted that in the past people didn’t learn much about historical events of the Indigenous population in school.
“I believe today there is an increase in ensuring our young people are educated about Canadian history. It’s a great way to experience the history because you are actively involved and you will feel what it must have been like in history.” she said.
Wade explained that as the exercise continues, the blankets, which represent the landmass of Canada before contact, get smaller and smaller, simulating the effects of colonization on Indigenous people.
“The babies represent children that were removed from their families in the ‘60s Scoop,” she said.
A light meal of traditional foods like berry soup, stew, and bannock bread was also provided, and at the end of the session, individuals walked away with a certificate of participation.
“I just really want to thank the Town of Strathmore for partnering with us to provide this exercise,” said Wade.
In addition, another public education session will be held on February 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Strathmore Civic Centre.
Originally published in StrathmoreNow, on January 23, 2020, and written by Monique Massiah.