Teaching togetherness

January 19, 2018 | Society

Interdisciplinary Dialogue explores truth and reconciliation


Mackenzie, 4th year Bachelor of Child and Youth Care student

The 2018 Interdisciplinary Dialogue kicked off on January 17 with a blanket exercise led by two fourth-year Bachelor of Child and Youth Care students, Luciann Crazyboy and Mackenzie Brown, and guests from Edmonton Public Schools.

The Interdisciplinary Dialogue is a gathering of students from across MacEwan’s five faculties, who will spend the Winter semester exploring truth and reconciliation. Last year’s successful interdisciplinary pilot project focused on the global refugee crisis, and sparked the plan for this year’s theme.

“Last year the question of Indigenous peoples came up, but it was too big of a topic to address at the time,” explains Larisa Hayduk, an academic advisor with the Faculty of Arts and Science. “We knew right away that truth and reconciliation would be our theme for 2018—it was obvious to everyone involved.”

In the coming months, students will attend three educational forums, participate in online discussions and celebrate their learning at an end-of-term interdisciplinary symposium. There will also be an opportunity for land-based cultural activities in May. The goal? Work together towards a holistic understanding of truth and reconciliation.

As a university, we have a direct responsibility to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
—Deborah Saucier

“As a university, we have a direct responsibility to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action,” says Deborah Saucier, MacEwan’s president. “We’ve taken steps to change policies, but it’s a conversation that is ongoing, and one I encourage everyone to join.” 

THUMB_DEB_2Read more about the work to Indigenize education at MacEwan. Answering the call: Indigenizing education at MacEwan—A president’s perspective.


A student’s perspectiveIMAGE_STORY_MACKENZIE_BROWN_1

Growing up, my family always taught us the beautiful aspects of our culture, so that we could teach others how to love us and how to grow together rather than growing apart.

The first blanket exercise I led was for my class. I did a smudge first, and we sang two drum songs which doesn't typically happen. The drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth, and when we hear that sound, it reminds us of our own mother’s heartbeat. It’s built into our cells to remember that sound, so when people hear the drum they feel vulnerable, but loved. I wanted the blanket exercise to be a ceremonial experience.

We held a blanket exercise with people from across the university as part of the Interdisciplinary Dialogue on Truth and Reconciliation— it's the biggest exercise I've ever helped run.

A blanket exercise is basically the last 2,000 years of history condensed into an hour. You start out with a bunch of blankets that represent Turtle Island, or North America, before European contact. People representing Europeans stand around the outside, and all the people on the blankets are the Indigenous peoples. They're not allowed to talk, which symbolizes how Indigenous peoples didn't have a voice throughout the colonial period.

As the exercise progresses, different props are integrated. For example, dolls are given to people, and when we move on to the period of residential schools, the dolls are taken away. Slowly, the European people also start folding the blankets so the space is tinier, and at the same time we ask more and more people to leave their blankets. It's quite alarming because you start out with so many people—if you start out with 250 people, by the end there would be about 25.

It means a lot to me that this happened. For me, a blanket exercise is working on the truth part of truth and reconciliation. It’s so important because it puts you in a position to feel how other people might have felt. And I think that is the first step to really understanding one another.

—Mackenzie, 4th year Bachelor of Child and Youth Care student

Join the conversation

Anyone interested in learning more is welcome at the Interdisciplinary Dialogue’s educational forums:

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