Marie Émilie Lacroix, an Innu, who now lives in the countryside on the south shore of Quebec City, and her husband René, who played the role of the European (Settler), brought to life the realities of how Indigenous peoples lived in Canada before the Settlers arrived. Indigenous people were a proud peoples with their own land, culture, religion, laws, and their own languages. The Blanket Exercise helped participants understand in a deep way how, bit by bit, this was all taken from them, as the Indian Act, residential schools and treaties and agreements came into being.
Marie Émilie was very clear that, in her opinion, non-Indigenous people should not feel guilty for what the Settlers did. They should instead see themselves as allies with Indigenous people. My own conviction is that I can be a different kind of person. One that heals rather than divides. One that cares rather than takes advantage and one that works to stop the chain of hate and indifference.
It is always helpful to share feedback and teachable moments so I want to add a few
participants’ comments here:
• “It was important to remind myself during this time of witnessing the effects of infectious diseases from Covid, that over a much longer time, the first peoples caught disease (sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose) from the Settlers. And the fever hospitals continued to be very inadequate as the decades progressed.”
• “I found the Blanket Exercise to be an experience that I would like to revisit. Marie Émilie led us with a good mix of combining important historical information along with authentic personal knowledge in an all-embracing way—especially as there is still so much work to do in Canada.”
• “Having Marie Émilie and her husband share the storytelling was a good visual into showing the partnership between people who represent different cultures and life experiences.”
The Blanket Exercise is a very powerful and popular tool. If you have not experienced one, I urge you to do so.