The Blanket Exercise is an initiative developed by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition of KAIROS Canada, a faith-based social justice organization, in conjunction with Indigenous Elders and educators as a method of teaching Canadians a history not often taught through a critical exploration of Indigenous rights and Canadian history. It emerged as one tool/resource as part of their broader Indigenous Rights initiative that includes both public education and action campaigns.
This initiative targets Canadians of all ages and has been used thousands of times in churches, classrooms and workplaces. It was reevaluated and updated in 2013. The goal of the Blanket Exercise is to foster an understanding of Aboriginal, Metis, and Inuit peoples of Canada, and the true history of colonization in this country. Facilitators download the exercise for a small fee from the KAIROS website, and use it along with the script which corresponds to the age of the participants (there is one for youth/adults, and one for children/younger teens).
Participants “live” the colonial experience of Indigenous peoples in Canada in order to revive history and implicate the present with the past, with blankets being used to represent the lands of what is now known as Canada. The workshop consists of a reenactment of the history of treaty-making, colonial dispossession, and resistance, which demonstrate an alternative narrative of Canada’s creation, lasting about 40 minutes. KAIROS recommends following up the exercise with a talking circle, and inviting local Indigenous peoples to participate whenever possible as a way to build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadian communities.
New versions of the Blanket Exercise are currently being developed. These include one targeting teens 13-17 specifically, a French version of the exercise, as well as a version targeted at new Canadians, migrant workers, and those whose first language is not English.