Our Name

oski-pimohtahtamwak otayisīniwiwaw (Nehiyawak)
oski pima ci-owat ici ki-kay-dam-o-win-ing (Nakawē)
wana oicimani tecawosdodyē uncumpi (Dakota)
they are into their new journey to knowledge (English)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On Becoming Powerful Speakers

On Becoming Powerful Speakers
by Calen Whiteman

The first day of class I said to Mrs. Koops, “I’m going to be the narrator.” I was talking about the Kairos Blanket Exercise and told her how I was interested in being a leader for other schools and teaching them how this Blanket Exercise works and what it’s about. I told Mrs. Koops that I could be the narrator because I thought I could take this challenge. I could read it; I could nail it. Nobody else spoke up right away, so I decided I would because I’m not shy in front of crowds. I knew the name of the Kairos Blanket Exercise, but I didn’t know what it was about or what it said. My new leadership depended on me understanding my own history, taking some risks, building relationships, and being generous.

My first day back we had a talking circle as a class and Mrs. Koops explained to us how the KBE worked and we had a practice. It meant a lot to me because it was about my culture and how things have been happening so long ago to Indigenous peoples, how our land was being taken from us by the Europeans, the land being bought and sold, over 1000 Indigenous woman going missing and today the number is much higher (Kairos Canada, 2015). It speaks to me because I have had ancestors who have been through these things. My grandpa was a survivor at the Residential School in Lebret. I was told some crazy, scary stories about him being in there. I would explain more but they aren’t my stories to hand out and I don’t like speaking about them to others. I have had more family going through this, but I’ve never heard their stories. It’s important for Canadians to hear about this story; they’re not going to hear enough about it on the news, on YouTube; that’s why I want to take part in being a narrator. It’s a big risk but it’s worth it because it’s a topic that gets dropped. Residential School was a big thing. The apology is not enough. First Nations are still living on poor reserves.
My first time I taught students from the University of Regina they were in their 3rd and 4th year in becoming a teacher. We were at the Treaty 4 Gathering. At first I was nervous, but then I pulled it together and realized that no one is going to learn if they’re not being taught. At the end of our first session at Treaty 4 grounds we all sat in a circle and had everyone say something about their experience doing the KBE; a lot of their responses had me shocked because some of them didn’t know about the land that has been taken from Indigenous peoples or the diseases that were brought over to the northern part of Turtle Island. They didn’t know how residential schools affected them and what has happen to people that were in those schools. It’s a heartbreaking subject for me. Most of these U of R students were woman and the part in the exercise on Indigenous woman going missing had some of them looking shocked.
My second time leading the KBE as the narrator and I think I did a good job. They were younger kids, grade 5 and 6. There were about 3 kids that I helped read their scripts and it was great because I was working on my relationship skills while doing this with the little kids. Teaching them at a young age is good to me because they could tell others about it and we can teach more people. It’s an interesting topic when you take the time to realize what happened to Indigenous peoples and how the Europeans broke their promises and Treaties (Kairos Canada, 2015).
Since then, I’ve had opportunity to build relationships with Sacred Heart High School’s teachers, Notre Dame students and teachers, and some other schools that came to the Treaty 4 grounds and participated. It helped me get my voice and to not be shy. It teaches me how to be a leader for others and show them the exercise. One more thing that catches my attention is that we get to teach it to anyone who invites us and wants us to. I’m willing to go around and do this with other schools and possibly bigger places and towns. This is important to me because it is part of my shared history; this happened to my kin. I’ve had family go through it, my grandpa, my kokum, some aunties and uncles were a couple years short of going to residential school before it got shut down. Even thinking of the fact that they could have been in there still hurts me. I want people to know what happened because to some of us it’s really emotional because we had family go through it and we hear about the things that happened to them. I want to bring it up because it’s something people shouldn’t forget about. It feels like people have forgotten because it’s not a big topic anymore. For me it is a big topic because it still impacts me.

I want to make my voice, everybody’s voice, the voices that have been forgotten, the voices that have been through those struggles that have never been heard, I want them all remembered. Especially for the lives and the voices of my ancestors who had to live the hard way when I have it easy in a way. I don’t have to go to Residential Schools. I’m not taken away from my family. I’m not forced out of my culture, to not be traditional. I can live a free and happy life, but why couldn’t they? I want this exercise to help everyone understand that my people have been suffering from these things and till this day still are; it was a dark time back in the day for Indigenous people and it’s a dark subject for the heirs of the family’s and kids that participated in this awful time. So my job in this Kairos Blanket Exercise is to get the message out to everyone that I can be of service to with my class and teacher. I’m hoping I and my friends can get more and more invites from other schools to come show them how the KBE works. We have done it 14 times now and by the time this school year is over I think that we can get at least 40 or more opportunities as we are still working and building on becoming powerful speakers.


  1. Audrey wrote on Facebook...

    Calen is also a powerful writer, Sheena! A couple of thoughts...

    "that’s why I want to take part in being a narrator" - what a metaphor for being a story teller... a narrator of life and history, beyond the blanket exercise.

    "It helped me get my voice and to not be shy" - even in shy moments, a leader is waiting.

    "I want to make my voice, everybody’s voice, the voices that have been forgotten, the voices that have been through those struggles that have never been heard, I want them all remembered" - Calen reminds me of Murray Sinclair words, when he said we must always remember... "We should never forget, even once they have learned from it, because it's part of who we are. It's not just a part of who we are as survivors and children of survivors and relatives of survivors, it's part of who we are as a nation. And this nation must never forget what it once did to its most vulnerable people." (The Current, CBC April 4, 2017)

    Thanks for sharing Sheena. :)

  2. Roberta wrote on facebook...

    Calen Whiteman, you are becoming a powerful, speaker and your voice is being heard. I appreciate your determination and sincerity.