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 blog post will share excerpts from the first question.
What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating?
- I liked how they didn't just stand and talk, they got us up and moving.
- My general impression about the Blanket Exercise was it was very well done and was very informative. I think it helps students understand what the teachers talk about when they are teaching Native Studies or other Social classes. I enjoyed participating because it helped me understand and visualize the timeline, putting myself in the situation that the Aboriginal peoples went through.
- At first I was confused on why we were crammed (on blankets) but then I realized that this was just a smaller scale of what really happened to the First Nations. The reserves got smaller and a lot of the families got torn apart. I really enjoyed participating and learned a lot about what happened.
- Certainly I thought the presentation wasn't half bad. It was nice that it was focused among the participation of the students, rather than non interactive at all. Let's just say I enjoyed participating more than I would have if I had to sit there for an hour and a half listening to somebody talk.
- Personally I did enjoy participating in the Blanket Exercise. Many times in school we simply read facts off of a page about Aboriginal history, but with the Blanket Exercise you could actually see what was happening to the number of First Nations people over time.
- I thought that they presented the topic very well. The blanket exercise intrigued me. I've never seen anything like this before. I really enjoyed participating in it because it almost felt first hand and very realistic, compared to other strategies in learning and teaching.
- It was awkward. We took off our shoes and stood close together. I felt very uncomfortable during the presentation as I was surrounded by people I didn't know. I personally did not enjoy the presentation as it pulled me out of my comfort zone.
- My general impression on the Blanket Exercise was weird at first because I didn't know really what it was until we got into it and we represented different parts of history that happened. I enjoyed participating because it was something new and different to me.
- The Blanket Exercise summed up what happened to the First Nations (Aboriginals). I liked it because I could see what was happening. I enjoyed participating because you were in the foot steps of the Aboriginals.
- Before the presentation began, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, once it began, I realized that this wasn't just someone rambling on and on about a topic. They were trying to make you see and feel what the Aboriginal people went through on a lesser level. I thought the presentation was very well done and extremely educational. It is something I would for sure do again. I really enjoyed the presentation because it was eye opening and made you really understand what the people went through. It makes you realize that we can't take anything for granted.
- There was a lot of information and because of the young people presenting it was easier to understand.
- I really enjoyed this exercise because it was presented on more of a personal level. It wasn't read from a textbook, but instead, we got to in some form, experience it. When Jacob and I had to turn our backs on Skye it was hard because we had to totally ignore that she was even there. I really enjoyed participating in the exercise because we got involved in it and really, for hands on people like myself, it really explained a lot more than a textbook would.
- It was very informative. I knew lots about what happened to the First Nations, but to actually visualize the number of people affected, to see how small of a blanket we had to stand on, representing how much land they had, was shocking. During the Blanket Exercise I felt very uncomfortable because I wasn't aware of what was about to happen.
- The Blanket Exercise was full of information! The girls from PVSD were very clear and concise with the presentation. I enjoyed participating because it let us experience in some small way, what the Aboriginals went through throughout the years.
- My general impression about the Blanket Exercise is that it really impacts people who learn by seeing. I am like that and this exercise gave me a lot to think about towards our nation's history. I did enjoy participating because it made it easier for me to learn.
- It was a good way to get us involved instead of just doing an hour presentation and us taking notes. I enjoyed participating in the Blanket Exercise, except that I was in the first group to die.
The girls had been nervous as we drove to Estevan, wondering how they would be received by their peers. I told them a bit about my understanding of the community, having grown up in Macoun and attended the Estevan Comp for one year. I told them that the students might be a tough crowd, but that they knew what they were doing and that they could handle it. From reading the first of the five reflection questions, the girls can rest assured they honoured our shared history and they won the respect of the students that they met.
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