In early 2016, the CLCs in Chevery (Netagamiou) and Harrington Harbour reached out to the neighbouring Innu community of Unamen Shipu to invite them to participate in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, an interactive educational activity that covers 500 years of history of Indigenous people in Canada.

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The Blanket Exercise Story

In early 2016, the CLCs in Chevery (Netagamiou) and Harrington Harbour reached out to the neighbouring Innu community of Unamen Shipu to invite them to participate in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, an interactive educational activity that covers 500 years of history of Indigenous people in Canada.

A planning team was assembled from the three communities to implement the Blanket Exercise, with a broader aim of developing a long-term relationship, and specifically for the non-Aboriginal communities to learn more about their local Innu history, culture, and traditions. Approximately 125 community members participated in the events, representing more than 20% of the total population of the two communities.

As a result, in the spring, Katy (a representative from Kairos) and Baudouin (a spiritual leader from Unamen Shipu) co-facilitated the Blanket Exercise three times, as community-wide events in Chevery and Harrington Harbour, and for health and education personnel in Unamen Shipu (in recognition of the network of support for those who are residential school survivors or their descendants).

“An incredibly powerful experience that moved me to tears. I truly believe that everyone should participate in this eye opening, thought provoking exercise!” Christine Vatcher, community member

“A very powerful exercise that impacted all participants.  The activity shone a light on a topic that has been left in the dark for too long.” Philip Joycey, School Principal

“L'exercice des couvertures a créé des images bouleversantes qui m'ont touchée profondément. C'est intense!” Monique Bourassa, community member

In fall 2016, the next step was to bring the Blanket Exercise activity to the schools for all students from grade 2 to secondary 5.

“My students told me that the Blanket exercise was the difference between knowing and understanding. It inspired them to continue their research about residential schools. That led them to want to know more about First Nation education in general…they got a lot out of this project and it really opened their eyes to a reality we are not familiar with.” Anne Monger, Teacher

These activities generated a huge amount of empathy, respect, curiosity, and a concrete desire to further nurture the relationship between the three communities.  Teachers have also expressed interest in reaching out to the Olamen School at Unamen Shipu, and plans are currently underway for follow-up student exchanges through in-class interactions or extracurricular activities.

Student impacts include demonstrated ongoing interest and engagement through a variety of follow-up activities, including:

• Writing a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada 
• Creating a “talking feather” modeled after the eagle feather that was passed around the closing circle at the end of the Blanket Exercise. 
• Watching the ‘Secret Path’ film created by Gord Downie (Tragically Hip). Go to siteGo to site
• Conducting research on the impact of loss of land in relation to space and autonomy for indigenous hunting and nomadic practices.  
• Engaged in replicating native artwork such as Wampum bracelets and seed pictures.

Teacher impacts include the incorporation of a variety of new resources and opportunities into their curriculum. 

• An elementary teacher modified the Blanket Exercise EduKit and presented it to her Grade 1-3 class in a format they would understand.
• Another elementary teacher is doing a project in social studies/ERC class with students from grades 1-6 on Algonquian culture and traditional food. They are also reading books by C. J Taylor and Paul Goble about legends of the origin of the Indigenous people.
• A secondary teacher modified her class time to support the interest of her students in an independent exploration of the history, culture, and contemporary issues relating to native peoples of Quebec and Canada. 
• Both elementary and secondary students participated in a webinar by the National Gallery of Canada called Indigenous Art Today.

However, the most powerful outcome for the communities in Chevery and Harrington Harbour has been an overall increased awareness of the history and a desire to keep learning more. Though logistics remain a challenge (the three communities are geographically isolated from one another, with no roads to connect them) everyone remains committed to bridging the barriers of distance and language to learn from each other and continue building a strong, vibrant relationship.

Excerpt from the students’ letter to Prime Minister of Canada:

“We strongly believe First Nations should not have to fight for services other children get to enjoy in this country. We understand that the remoteness of some native communities adds to the complexity of providing good services, but we know firsthand it is no excuse. We are a small school with a student population of 26. We are a remote community of less than 300 residents, located on an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with no connecting road. Despite this, our school is well equipped, well cared for and provides us with a positive learning environment. We want ALL the children in this country to have as much as we do.” Callie Evans, Secondary III student, Harrington Harbour School on behalf of all secondary students attending this school.