By Ivan and Kathy Hitchings
[Catholic Saskatoon News] – Our Lady of Guadalupe First Nations and Métis Parish in Saskatoon has negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with Kairos Canada to use the Kairos Blanket Exercise to create a better understanding and awareness of our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
The interactive exercise illustrates how we went from a time when Indigenous peoples used and occupied all of the land we now call Canada, to a time when land reserved for Indigenous peoples has been reduced to only a very tiny part of Canada’s land mass.
The script walks participants through the federal laws and policies used to assimilate the original peoples of Canada into European culture. It is a history that has only recently come to light through the sharing of the stories of survivors during the Truth and Reconciliation hear-ings held across Canada.
“One of the most pressing needs in our parish is to do everything we can to heal the wounds people carry from being taken from their families as young children and placed in residential schools, and to continue to move forward in a positive way,” says Debbie Ledoux, Parish Life Director at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
“In the years separated from our families, we as children lost the sense of who we are and where we belong. The Kairos Blanket Exercise is helping the people who don’t know the history to have more under-standing of why things are the way they are,” she says.
A team of First Nations, Métis and non-Indigenous Lay Formation Alumni has been facilitating the Kairos Blanket Exercise for several years and would like to see the exercise implemented much more widely, to initiate reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the Catholic community.
“I enjoy taking part in the Kairos Blanket Exercises and praying in both Cree and English for the individuals in attendance,” says Elder Irene Sharp, who accompanied the Aboriginal Stream of the Lay Formation Program (now known as “Adult Faith Enrichment”) for several years and who is an integral member of the Kairos Blanket Exercise team.
“The exercise teaches people to keep an open mind.” says Elder Irene Sharp. “Sharing is a special gift and we would like all churches to experience this. We are all equals. Indigenous peoples would like to share why – and what really happened to us years ago – not to put blame on anyone, but to learn from it.
To inquire about booking a Blanket Exercise, contact Ivan and Kathy Hitchings at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-329-4484.
Holy Spirit Parish participants describe impact of walk through history
[Catholic Saskatoon News] – A recent experience of the Kairos Blanket Exercise has been stamped on the minds and hearts of participants from Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon.
As an engagement in reconciliation through education and understanding, the Kairos Blanket Exercise is a unique, participatory history lesson, developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, know-ledge keepers and educators. The interactive experience fosters truth, under-standing, respect, and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
“The Blanket Exercise that I participated in at Holy Spirit Church was a powerful and moving visual and auditory account of the colonization of North America; in particular, Saskatchewan,” said participant Camille Rochon, expressing appreciation for the local facilitators who shared time and talent to lead the exercise Jan. 24, 2019. “For me it was a reminder of the loss and suffering of the Indigenous people. My hope is that our awareness and compassion can promote healing and recovery,” she said.
Participants in the Kairos Blanket Exercise at Holy Spirit parish walked through situations that include pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization, and resistance.
The exercise touched on various aspects of Indigenous Peoples’ experience of colonization, such as residential schools, disease outbreaks in communities, relocation, disen-franchisement and loss of status, the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the 1960s “scoop” of children into foster care/adoption, and the number of Indigenous children in foster care today.
Leaders from Holy Spirit parish – including members of parish pastoral council, staff, ministry coordinators, etc. – were asked to step onto blankets representing the land, and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples. Facilitators from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish read from a script and assumed the role of Narrator and European explorers and settlers.
At the end of the exercise, participants shared their thoughts and feelings in a safe and respectful sharing circle. All were touched by the exercise and experienced new insights into the tragic impact that European settlement had, and continues to have, on Indigenous people.
“The Blanket Exercise was a very powerful experience for me. Not only was the visual aspect of the event eye-opening, but also the physical participation made me more aware of the meaningful history of the Indigenous people of Canada,” said Celena Komarnicki.
Barb Mickelson expressed her appreciation for the facilitators who presented the exercise. “They were very humble, kind people, and I would like to have time to get to know them personally. I enjoyed the way the historical facts were presented with the blankets. I would recommended this to any group.”