On the evening of Wednesday, April 20, the Living Spirit United Church in partnership with All Saints’ Anglican Church offered the Blanket Exercise to the Drayton Valley community. Twenty-six people participated in the interactive educational program to learn the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It was an exercise many said they would not forget. Participants explored the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, how this relationship has been damaged over the years, and what can be done to work towards reconciliation.
Facilitated by Wilson Bearhead and his daughter, Seneca Dueck, the session began with a moving narration of the history of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island (Canada). The history of colonization included the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, disenfranchisement, assimilation, cultural genocide, the Indian residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
After the Blanket Exercise, people were given an opportunity to speak about their experiences in a sharing circle. Many were moved to tears. “Everyone’s breath is sacred. When the people around us, who we work with, and love, speak from the breath of life, we want to listen to them and make sure that we respect their words,” said Bearhead.
Support for this event was provided by the United Church of Canada’s Justice and Reconciliation Fund and the space was contributed by All Saints’ Anglican Church. Dianne Nikiforuk, council chair of the Living Spirit United Church, is thankful for this shared ministry: “This partnership has made a difference in the community. Both churches look forward to new possibilities to partner and live out God’s light and love in this corner of the world.”
Submitted by Holly Cook. Holly is a member of All Saints’, Drayton Valley, and is finishing her program in Native Studies with the University of Alberta. She is the recipient of the summer 2022 internship to the Beaver Lake First Nation with the Engage North organization of the University of Alberta.