For ten months, four young women from Bert Fox Community High School -- Tomika Pinay, Mercedes Tupone, Leeza Curin, and Eraine Croucamp -- were called on by teachers, community members, university professors, and organizations to present "The Blanket Exercise" an interactive experience, developed by Kairos, which brings "Canada's Indigenous history up to the surface" as Tomika says. "The blanket exercise isn't meant to point the finger of blame or shame toward settler descendants, it's a tool to bring us together to work, and towards a better future. It's not about what we can do to fix the past, it's about what we can do to fix the now."
The following is a reflection written by Tomika.
Leeza, Mercedes, Tomika, and Eraine
after presenting the Blanket Exercise at the Estevan Comprehensive School
Hope for Canada
by Tomika Pinay
"The first time I participated in the blanket exercise I was overcome with sadness. I was upset because I did not know how awful the things my ancestors had to experience. I was heartbroken that the indigenous history of Canada has been hidden and forgotten about. After the initial feelings of sadness a small, inkling of pride crept upon me. There have been so many attempts to annihilate our cultures, but we are still here. After the government's attempts to "kill the Indian in the child" and to erase our history, we are still here. It is a miracle that our indigenous cultures are still such a huge part of who we are. Canada's Indigenous people are still living, breathing, and walking on this earth, are still a part of Turtle Island.
"My most memorable experience facilitating the blanket exercise was one of the first times Leeza, Eraine, and I performed the exercise at the UofR. At this particular time, we were presenting to a university class, but I can't remember which one. The class was very respectful and fully participated in the exercise. There was one young man who I'd had the chance to speak to, and his feelings on the exercise at first were very negative. He told me that the exercise brought on feelings of blame and shame. That isn't what the Blanket exercise is about. It's about bringing Canada's Indigenous history up to the surface. We cannot change the past no matter what we do, we can only move on from now and change our futures. Our job as treaty people is to acknowledge our past and to rebuild the relationship of Indigenous peoples and settler descendants. The blanket exercise isn't meant to point the finger of blame or shame toward settler descendants its a tool to bring us together to work, and towards a better future. It's not about what we can do to fix the past, it's about what we can do to fix the now.
"I've learned that the people who are willing to learn will get the most out of the Blanket Exercise. Even those who don't want to listen or learn, something will stick. Through doing the exercise I've gained a lot of hope for Canada. There is a problem of racism in North America,but teaching and listening to people from all walks of life has given me optimism for our future.
"My hope is that everyone who has participated in the exercise has taken something away that will impact them positively. Because I know it has impacted me greatly."
Tomika, Mercedes, Leeza and Eraine at ECS
Tomika with grade ten students at Bert Fox
Debriefing Blanket Exrecise, ECS
Mercedes, Victoria, Leeza, Eraine, and Tomika with Kete-ayah Alma Poitras
after presenting the Blanket Exercise at the Estevan Public Library.
Eraine, Tomika, and Leeza posing for a picture to send Mr. Koops
as we eat at his favourite restaurant in Regina, after a Blanket Exercise presentation.