What is it?
The Blanket Exercise, developed by KAIROS following the landmark report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, is an excellent tool that literally walks participants through the history of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. Much of the content is written by Aboriginal people. It helps participants understand why reconciliation is needed and how to take steps toward reconciliation and new relationships.
Here’s a quick video from KAIROS to give you a taste:
Why do it?
The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) is committed to seeking reconciliation and renewed relationships with our Aboriginal neighbours. One step along this journey of reconciliation is to understand our shared history. Georges Erasmus, a prominent Aboriginal leader in Canada, has said that unless people understand their shared history, there can be no community.
“The Blanket Exercise will get you, for a time at least, walking in someone else’s shoes, and will raise your awareness and understanding of Aboriginal people in Canada,” writes Rev. Curtis Korver in his reflection on the Blanket Exercise. “Understanding can lead to compassion. Understanding can lead past stereotypes and to real people who have much to offer. Understanding can help us to deal with the past and move into the future. It starts by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, or at least walking far enough together to squirm a little.
In addition, by participating in the Blanket Exercise we are fulfilling Calls to Action #59 and #60 that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
Call to Action #59. We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.
Call to Action #60. We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.
Who can participate?
Since its creation in 1996, the Blanket Exercise has been conducted hundreds of times with thousands of people of all ages and from all backgrounds. The ideal number of participants is 15-25, but it can be easily and successfully adapted for both smaller and much larger groups. Children, youth and adults; those who know a little bit of history or a lot – everyone will benefit from participating in the Blanket Exercise.
The Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee, Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and the Office of Race Relations are encouraging CRC members, congregations, and Classes to get involved. In fact, CRC Synod 2015 recommended that all churches take part in the Blanket Exercise in the next year! Whether with your small group, youth group, at a Day of Encouragement, in a history class, at a congregational meeting, or any other venue, we invite you to learn our shared history through the Blanket Exercise. (There’s a version for Americans too!)
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, or to schedule a Blanket Exercise in your area.
Map of Blanket Exercise Workshop Facilitated
Reflections on the Blanket Exercise
- …Because God Will Work in Your Heart – Shannon Perez
- The Blanket Exercise – Rev. Curtis Korver
- The Parable of the Blanket Exercise – Rev. John Van Sloten
- Churches Learn the Parable of the Blanket – news story in The Banner by Rachel de Koning Kraay
- The Blanket Exercise: Learning to Hear a Different Story – Kelsey Herbert