Indigenous history explored through unique exercise

Program is an interactive and participatory lesson.

This blanket is made to uncover.

As part of Indigenous History Month, Metrolinx’s Employee Resource Group, Anishinaabe Circle, in partnership with Oxford Properties, held a culturally immersive event on June 19, to help staff travel back 500 years into Canada’s past.

The colourful ‘KAIROS Blanket Exercise’  is an interactive history lesson that’s been used thousands of times in Canada. Participants, while walking on different blankets, explore the land, as well as the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis people.

Colourful blankets are seen on the floor as participants listen to a speaker.

Participants sit and listen to speakers, as blankets rest on the floor. (Sara Wilbur photo)

 

Amid onlookers, the 90-minute event – meant to foster understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – was held in the atrium at 10/20 Bay St., in downtown Toronto. Metrolinx staff were among the 40 participants to take part.

“The blanket exercise allows people to come together and to participate in a truth telling exercise,” says Fallon Melander, Metrolinx’s Indigenous relations manager. “As an Indigenous woman, it is highly emotional to walk in the shoes of my relatives and to constantly educate and teach people about our history.

Partipants sit on chairs in front of blankets on the floor.

The colourful ‘blanket exercise’ is an interactive history lesson that’s been used thousands of times in Canada. (Sara Wilbur photo)

“This exercise provides the opportunity for people to walk in our shoes, if only for an hour and to be exposed to our undeniable truths.”

During the event, participants literally ‘walked’ through situations that included pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.

Participants are reflected in stonework.

Open and intimate – A circle of learning reflected in the polished stone of the downtown public atrium where the blanket exercise took place. (Sara Wilbur photo)

Until June 20, 10/20 Bay St. also hosts the ‘Canada by Treaty’ exhibit. The Metrolinx Anishinaabe Circle Employee Resource Group collaborated with Oxford Properties on the installation of the exhibit. The Canada by Treaty is a pop-up exhibit that explores treaties and the legal agreements with Indigenous peoples that allowed non-Indigenous people to live on and own land in what is now Canada.

In March 2019, Metrolinx created and staffed an Indigenous Relations Office. The office provides expertise, learning and builds an understanding of our shared history.

For more on the KAIROS Blanket Exercise program, just click here.

Story by Sara Wilbur, Metrolinx communications coordinator.