Employees of RCMP on Prince Edward Island were provided a unique opportunity to experience and understand Indigenous people and their diverse history though a "Blanket Exercise" held at Headquarters in Charlottetown.
Condensing all of the cultural changes, nuances and challenges from the past 500 years could be a daunting task, but the format of this exercise aimed to affect the audience while at the same time educating.
Employees from across the Island were invited to take part in the event and instead of sitting through a presentation, participants "experienced" the history lesson by actively participating which brought the history to a more tangible understanding. It is hoped that this type of learning will provide more opportunity for empathy and create healing.
Those who took part adopted the roles of Indigenous people and were asked to stand on blankets. The blankets represent the land and a narrator then takes them from first contact, to colonization, resistance and ultimately to more contemporary issues like reconciliation. Casting participants into the reality of the history of the Indigenous people helped to cultivate an appreciation of the issues over the years and perhaps change preconceived notions, or simply further educate. Ultimately, this can only aid communication and interaction between the community members and police as it provided context which furthers understanding.
The exercise is typically provided by a knowledge-keeper, an Elder in the community. The event held at RCMP Headquarters was delivered by Chrissy MacPhail, Dawn Knockwood, Nick Cheverie and Elder Junior Peter Paul.
Everyone who attended were clearly moved by the experience and felt that the Blanket Exercise gave the delivery of the information more meaning, something that would remain with them always.