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Port Moody blanket exercise will help city build 'brighter future' with Indigenous communities: mayor

The blanket exercise is an interactive and experiential teaching tool.
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Ivy Peers, a First Nations dancer and singer from Alert Bay, performs at National Indigenous Day ceremonies at Port Moody's Rocky Point Park in 2019. The bright colours and the similarity of the dancer's motion to the figures painted on the background caught my eye during this performance at National Indigenous Day ceremonies at Port Moody's Rocky Point Park.

A blanket exercise at Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park on Saturday, June 22, will help foster a greater understanding between non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities, says the city’s mayor.

“Understanding the ongoing impacts of colonization and colonialism on Indigenous peoples is one way that everyone can contribute to building a brighter future for us all,” said Meghan Lahti in a news release.

Facilitated by KAIROS Canada, a movement of Indigenous peoples, settlers and newcomers working for ecological justice and human rights, the blanket exercise is an interactive and experiential teaching tool that explores the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

“Everyone who resides on these lands can benefit from learning its history,” Lahti said.

“There is no better way to move forward with Truth and Reconciliation than to develop an understanding of the past and how it shapes the present.”

The exercise takes two to three hours, during which participants will step on blankets representing the land and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Facilitators including Elders and Knowledge Keepers will guide them through a story that covers pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization, resistance and more.

When the exercise concludes, participants debrief in a talking circle to discuss their learning experience, process their feelings, share insights and ask questions.

The blanket exercise will be held outdoors, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in an open area between the Shoreline Trail and Slaughterhouse Creek, just north of the off-leash dog park. But if the weather is unsuitable, it will be moved to the gym at the Port Moody Recreation Complex (300 Ioco Rd.)

Participants are advised to bring a blanket or chair as well as a filled water bottle and to wear comfortable clothes suitable to the weather. They should be prepared to stay for the duration of the exercise.

Registration is required and anyone 14 or over can participate, but those under 18 will require a signature from a parent or guardian.

In 2021, Port Moody council committed to intensifying the city’s efforts to address “meaningful redress and reconciliation” with its Indigenous communities.

“Reconciliation involved humble recognition of our colonial past and offers opportunity to bring healing,” said Lahti, who was the chair of the Port Moody’s heritage commission at the time.

Some of the efforts include a review of the city’s archives, as well as its inventory of storyboards, stone markers and other “public facing heritage collateral” to ensure they contain language that is respectful language to Indigenous peoples.

Also on June 22, a post blessing ceremony and community feast to honour three house posts that are part of Port Moody’s In the Presence of Ancestors project will be held from 5 to 9 p.m at Rocky Point Park.

The posts are among five carved by artists from the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Kwikwetlem, Squamish and Katzie First Nations that will be erected along Shoreline Trail to Old Orchard Park. The first two were blessed in a similar celebration on June 21, 2023.

You can get free tickets and learn more about the event online.