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Blanket exercise to teach ‘often neglected’ First Nation history

From first contact to the incorporation of residential schools, the Peninsula United Church and South Fraser Unitarians are hosting a workshop Thursday to teach a part of Canadian history that is “often neglected.”

The churches, in collaboration with Indigenous facilitator Malaney Gleeson-Lyall, will host a Kairos Blanket Exercise Thursday from 1-4 p.m. at A Rocha (1620 192 St.).

The exercise is a teaching tool used to share the historic relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

The church groups invited the public and White Rock council to attend the event, however media was asked to not send a reporter to allow participants privacy as they experience the learning opportunity.

Peninsula United Church minister Bruce McAndless-Davis told Peace Arch News Monday that Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell will attend, but that they were told by White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin that he is not able to come. Baldwin, who is the Metro Vancouver representative for the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), is in Whistler this week for the annual convention.

Nobody else from council, McAndless-Davis said, responded to the invitation as of Monday morning.

“In particular, we were concerned about the difficulty it seems that arose in the relationship between the City of White Rock and Semiahmoo First Nation. We thought it would be particularly helpful to continue to do these blanket exercises, but also in this particular case, we thought we would invite White Rock city council in addition to everyone else,” McAndless-Davis said, who is a trained facilitator of the Kairos Blanket Exercise.

McAndless-Davis said that blankets are laid on the ground as a metaphor for land, and every participant is given a colour card and asked to stand on a blanket.

“Generally, people are given a role, which isn’t always apparent until they get further on,” he said.

“At one point, those who have a particular colour card – who have been given that at the beginning of the exercise – are asked to step off because they’ve died of disease, or some will step off the blanket because they were taken to a residential school.”

McAndless-Davis said participants get a very powerful visual representation of what happened.

“You get a physical depiction of what’s happening to First Nations and over the course of the exercise, the blankets get folded and what used to cover the entire floor of the room becomes little pockets where people are crowded.”

Following the exercise, participants are broken off into talking circles where they can share their experience and debrief.

Online registration of the event can be made by searching Kairos Blanket Exercise at www.eventbrite.ca

For more information, call Peninsula United Church at 604-531-2979 or email office@peninsulaunited.com

Aaron Hinks

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