Participants are led through a series of role-play scenarios during The Blanket Exercise workshop. Submitted photo

Role-playing exercise builds empathy and reconciliation

Blanket Exercise Tuesday, December 10th at Akisq’nuk; all welcome but please register

Role playing colonization and its effects can help in efforts toward reconciliation, said Margaret Teneese, archivist for the Ktunaxa Nation Council.

“We always like to go right to reconciliation because it makes you feel good. It gives you the warm fuzzies,” she said.

But you can’t arrive at reconciliation without first acknowledging the painful truths that stemmed from Canada’s treatment of those who were here long before the land was divided and the borders were drawn, she said.

To help share those truths, she will be facilitating The Blanket Exercise, a workshop open to everyone, where participants will role-play scenarios from First Nations history while standing on blankets.

“You have to be actively involved,” she said. “This allows the participants to take part in … the colonization of indigenous people.”

Unlike listening to a presentation, participants will be immersed in the lesson and in their roles.

“You actually participate and you actually go through the same feelings that we would have gone through because you’re in those shoes when you’re on those blankets,” she said.

As the scenarios are read out, she said participants will think: “Oh, that’s me … OK, now I know what they’re going through. Now I know what it feels like to be ripped away from your family, now I know what it feels like for a parent to have their child taken away, now I know what it feels like to have someone say – when you’re coming back (to your reserve) – that you don’t belong here.”

Being able to relate to what First Nations people lost “really allows the participants to be empathetic,” she said, adding that the exercise can be an emotional experience as participants relate more deeply to what First Nations people endured – from smallpox to residential schools to having their territory “cut in two by the 49th parallel.”

After the role-playing exercise, the group will have a talking circle where participants will be able to share their feelings, ask questions and process what they’ve learned.

The free workshop will be hosted by Family Dynamix and Akisq’nuk First Nation. It is open to anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of colonization and its impacts. Individuals, groups and organizations are welcome to attend.

It will take place on Tuesday, December 10th from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Akisq’nuk First Nation administration building. To register, call 250-342-5566.

While Ms. Teneese said the exercise can be powerful, it’s just one step in the journey toward reconciliation.

“It isn’t just something you cross off your to-do list and think that you’ve done what you needed to do,” she said. “You’re living in our territory.”

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