Using ‘Blanket Exercise’ to spread awareness about Indigenous communities

Lutheran Social Services ND partners with F–M Missing & Murdered Indigenous People Taskforce

FARGO, N.D. — For Amanda Vivier, also known as ChokeCherry Woman from the Turtle Mountain Reservation, being targeted is an everyday occurrence.

“I’ve had people follow me around in the stores. We deal with those things every day,” said Vivier, a member of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Taskforce.

Those at the Taskforce say a lack of awareness and education is to blame.

They’re trying to change that, starting with an activity called the Blanket Exercise.

The blankets on the floor represent the land Native Americans once lived on.

Around 40 participants, representing Native Americans stand on them.

“Participants will be moved off of the blankets, and blankets will be removed, representing the taking of the land and the diseases and the murderers and the things like that that we’ve endured,” said Vivier.

Taskforce members say activities like these are necessary to spread awareness of the struggles indigenous people still face as a consequence of their oppression over the past 500 years.

“Going through this exercise to understand how this series of events has inflicted so much harm and so much colonization, as well as genocide, is really important. It’s much more powerful when you experience it this way as a participant, versus just reading about it in isolated events,” said Meg Litts, also known as Grey Eagle Woman.

One participant says for her, the exercise is a reality check.

“Even though this is just an exercise, it’s not real life, we’re not getting sent to boarding schools, we’re not getting our children ripped away, just to have someone kind of push you or to be kind of huddled around people you don’t know, having your personal space violated, that uncomfortableness is very profound because it checks us on our privilege,” said participant Miriam Dashtipour.

The ultimate goal is to help people understand the history of relationships between Indigenous and non–Indigenous people, and how we can take action together toward healing.

Lutheran Social Services says the event addresses racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.

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