For Aboriginal Storytelling month last February, four students from Bert Fox Community High School were invited to the Estevan Comprehensive School to present the Blanket Exercise which tells the history of Canada through the voices of indigenous peoples. The blankets represent the land and participants play the role of sovereign indigenous peoples. The facilitators play the role of Europeans who first come to the land as friends, but as the power begins to shift, and Treaties are broken, assimilation and colonization become a reality. http://kairosblanketexercise.org/about
Tim Lee and James Jones, teachers at the Estevan Comp, assigned reflection questions. This is the second of five questions asked.
What did you learn from Friday's presentation?
- I learned just how far the Europeans were willing to go to eliminate First Nations people. From killing them with disease to putting them on reserves, Europeans were doing the wrong thing.
- I learned that the land literally got taken away from the Aboriginals.
- I learned that many Aboriginal people sacrificed their lives to fight for justice and for their families.
- I learned that the Aboriginals went through a lot and that even in 2016 we (settler people) don't acknowledge or are not educated on what they went through. Also, what we learn in school just scratches the surface of all the history.
- I learned what all happens to the Natives, how much land they gave up and how poorly and unfairly they were treated. It was not all good for them and it still isn't.
- I learned that indigenous people are still suffering today. Many people get upset over how they get "special" treatment and free education and other rights. They still are today, however, still under influence from aspects of the Indian Act, and many of the agreements made as Treaties are ignored or exploited by those people's advantage (those with power's advantage).
- I learned that First Nations peoples lives were hard. They didn't get the things we have today, they didn't get to spend time with their families. They had to go to Residential Schools away from their brothers, sisters, Mom, Dad, and the rest of their families. I learned it hands on and it made more sense to me, because it was hands on.
- I learned a few things from Friday's presentation, like how much more likely Aboriginal youths are to attempt suicide than other youths. I also learned that First Nations people have been treated very poorly, until recently when Stephen Harper made a formal apology. I learned that Residential Schools happened to more than just one generation. I also learned that Aboriginals were given blankets infested with small pox.
- I learned about all of the hardships that First Nations went through, although I had a slight idea of what my ancestors went through, I know more thoroughly now. I also learned about all the broken promises there was and how aggressive Europeans were when reducing reserved land. I learned about many statistics and how far they have come since then.
- I learned about the suicide rates among First Nations youth. I also learned how many people died during all of this. If you looked ath how many people there were and then look at all the people at the end, it really puts how many people died in perspective. learned that many of the problems that Aboriginals have could be easily solved, but no one's putting in much effort to do so. For example, schools on reserves get two to three thousand dollars less per student. I learned many children were forcefully taken. I also learned that Europeans purposefully exposed them to disease.
- I learned that life for indigenous peoples was harder than could be imagined by doing the Blanket Exercise, but it made me learn the main point was to step into their shoes.
- I learned about things such as suicide are incredibly higher for Aboriginal youth, which is really sad; no one should feel like they have to end their life. It also made me realize the isolation that Aboriginal people endured and how that really effects a person. I also learned about the effects of Residential Schools and how being taken from your family and never returning can have a negative effect. I was given a yellow card during the presentation, which meant I was sent to a residential school and I couldn't even begin to imagine how hard that would be.
- I learned a lot of the smaller details that are put on the back burner in a classroom. It's easier to learn from people your own age because they talk in a way that is easy to understand.
- I learned how much higher suicide rates are in First Nations communities. They are so much higher because of the hard living conditions. They are exposed to racism every single day. I also learned that not everyone that is Metis or Aboriginal looks like a Metis or Aboriginal. Life is harder for the ones that may not look Caucasian. They are picked on less because they don't look the part. You can never tell what people are going through because people learn to hide it. Lastly, I heard and realized that this Aboriginal history is our history as well.
- I learned that when kids were taken to go to Residential School, the parents didn't know where they actually went. I also found out that suicide rates are six times higher in Aboriginal communities and ten times higher in Inuit.
- I learned how poorly First Nations were treated. Although you may not be a part of what happened, it is still our shared history and affects everyone. I also learned that the First Nations are very willing and accepting of the past and willing to move on with an apology.
- That the Canadian government back then was terrible. The government seemed to try and force everyone to be "equal" instead of just accepting that everyone is different but can be equal with those differences.
- I learned about how quickly Europeans came to North America and took all (most) of the First Nations land. Many facts were told to me that I learned too, like how the Indian Act is still in the Canadian Constitution, that in ten years the Europeans took 60% of the First Nation's land and that First Nations youth are more likely to commit suicide than Caucasians.
Note. Excerpts from the ECS reflections on the Blanket Exercise can be found on Treaty Walks question by question on the following dates:
1. What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating? August 14th, 2016
2. What did you learn from Friday's presentation? August 23rd, 2016
3. What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone. August 29th, 2016
4. The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do? September 2nd, 2016
5. Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation. September 9th, 2016