History matters because people are shaped by it. Throughout millennia and as recorded in the Bible, God commands his people to commemorate his saving power shown when he delivered them from Egyptian slavery. This practice of remembering is an important one, especially when coupled with practices that share that history with others, which allows for better understanding of people, their histories, and their cultures. Here in North America, after centuries of broken treaties and marginalization, Gospel ministry to Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit communities in the US and Canada calls for historical and cultural understanding, undergirded by the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Developing healthy, long-term relationships is crucial for effective cross-cultural ministry. One must show commitment over the long term to win a hearing. With these healthy relationships there is a practical requirement to understand the history and culture of the people to whom one is ministering.
The blanket exercise is a powerful way of teaching about the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the US and Canada. Whyte Ridge Baptist Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has participated in this exercise and found it beneficial to assist them in their understanding of the history of the Indigenous community, an important pre-condition to effective Gospel ministry. (Check out last week’s article for more on WRBC’s ministry to Indigenous people.)
The blanket exercise was developed by a ministry called Kairos, specifically designed to describe Canadian history relative to Indigenous people. Kairos first developed it in the late 1990s in light of a report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and it’s been gaining popularity as a teaching tool in recent years, especially since the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Between 2007 and 2015, the Canadian government provided funds to support the work of the TRC, whose purpose was to provide those affected by the Residential School System in Canada, either directly or indirectly, an opportunity to share their stories. The TRC traveled throughout Canada interviewing thousands of people. Ultimately, in June 2015, the TRC held a closing event in Ottawa, presenting an executive summary of its findings, which included 94 calls to action that hopefully could facilitate reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. The final report of the TRC, comprising of six volumes, was released in December 2015.
Though the blanket exercise was developed in a Canadian context, it can also be applied to the relationship that the US has had with Indigenous people. Please take a few minutes to watch the video below to get a sense of the First Nations background and cultural perspective.