Yesterday at church, guests from the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and the Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee facilitated the Blanket Exercise with our congregation. The purpose as outlined by the CRCPD is to:
"seek reconciliation and renewed relationships with our Aboriginal neighbours. One step along this journey of reconciliation is to understand our shared history."Our chairs were arranged in a circle and blankets were spread like a patchwork quilt in the centre. Everyone removed their shoes and began walking around on the blankets representing the First Nations people in Canada prior to its 'discovery' by the Europeans. Our guests then narrated the history of the interactions and negotiations between the First Nations and the colonizers. People were designated as dead as disease raged across the country. Others were isolated in relocation programs. More were shunned by their people because of their attendance of residential schools. The land was carved up.
While none of the history was new to me, it is not a history that I particularly like to dwell upon as it implicates my current prosperous circumstances as the result of genocide, disenfranchisement, racism, and many other atrocities. It was healthy to experience the history as a community though because we could collectively acknowledge the injustice and also express a desire to work towards restoration.
On the way home from church, Blaise wanted to know what we did for the service as he saw we had brought a blanket. Explaining the history of the Aboriginal Canadians was difficult as we had to continually face the question "why?" I could barely voice the account of children being forcibly removed from their homes and placed in residential schools.
My belief is that if the first step towards reconciliation is to "understand our shared history," then the second step is to accept responsibility and acknowledge the injustice as real. A third and vital step is the formation of personal and authentic reciprocal relationships between First Nations people and people of European descent.