Genocide: Then & Now

On Wednesday, March 16th, our Global Issues class was able to participate in Kairos Canada’s Blanket Activity. We were joined by members of the Wildwood neighbourhood and also by members of the congregation of Fort Garry United.

The experience allowed us to explore Canada’s colonial history through the lens of indigenous peoples. We were led by Cree elder Connie Budd from the Northend Stella Community Ministry.

Here is one small group reflection that was captured:

On Thursday, March 17th, 2016, our Global Issues class took part in the 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium at the University of Winnipeg. There, we heard from Holocaust survivour Pinchas Gutter, who spoke of his journey.

Using both of these experiences, reflect on the notion of genocide. What are your takeaways from these experiences? How have the informed you or not?

Using the following Padlet, comment on your takeaways from the experience using text, audio and/or video.

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12 thoughts on “Genocide: Then & Now

  1. I was unfortunately not able to take place in the 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium at the University of Winnipeg, however I was able to take place in the very eye opening experience of the Blanket Ceremony. This ceremony was a very good visual representation of what we have been taught in school for years. It made me really think about our relationship with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada and how awful the European Canadians have treated them throughout hundreds of years. The amount of people that died due to disease and illness that the europeans brought over, residential schools and other factors caused by the Europeans is astonishing. The Aboriginal peoples once lived on and used most of Canada and now they have a very small portion, and the portions they do have, reserves, are usually in very secluded areas with very few and sometimes no human necessities. Many reserves don’t have running water, proper sewage disposal or electricity, which most Canadians take advantage of. Canada as a country needs to reestablish our relationship with European and Aboriginal peoples, so we can move on as one.

  2. I did not get to attend the blanket ceremony but I was present at the holocaust symposium. I’ve been to Europe, talked to veterans and survivors, seen the crosses that go on for what seems like forever and felt the warming happiness as a Canadian during VE day. Each send different types of shivers down my spine whenever I think of them. Hearing Mr. Gutter’s experience shapes my understanding of the event even more. It could only be viewed as survival in its purest form under a truly horrifying enemy. However Mr. Gutters separation of German and Nazi struck me as very thought provoking. The normal German soldier was sent to fight by the Nazi’s. Although I missed the blanket ceremony I feel as though I can see a symbolic resemblance between Mr. Gutter’s story and the story behind the aboriginals who went through residential schools.

  3. I would still call it as genocide, but not genocide with a clear intent to diminish a whole nation. I call it as genocide for the result it done to indigenous people. Aboriginal people were separated from the majority of the world. Being “jailed” in the land with relatively worse climate and worse condition. There were also a lot of story from the residential schools. Indigenous people were treated to be assimilated into the majority of society instead of allowed to keep their own cultural identity. This might not be a genocide through massacre but effacement of evidence of their existence. In the beginning of history of Canada as a country, the way Canadian government pop-up it population was unilaterally seeking for more immigrants from Europe instead of “local” residents. Oppositely, aboriginals were driven out of their original land for “new-coming” Europeans. Aboriginals, as residents in this land, were rarely treated as same as other citizens of the country on this land. For those reasons, comparing to the scale of aboriginal living region and their living situation,aboriginals did suffer a whole genocide. Isolation of indigenous people finally determined many dilemma of aboriginals today. Specially the poverty issue. But well, on the other hand, it is really hard to define it as genocide, because there was no systematic or large scale killing to any aboriginal group. Starvation was more used as method to expand territory in the early time. Indigenous people were treated differently by Canadian government with Jews treated by Nazis. But whatever, tragedy happened on whole first nations, is a sin we need to pay back today.

  4. I was sick and so I unfortunately was unable to attend the Holocaust Symposium but I did however get a chance to attend the Blanket Ceremony. In my opinion the Blanket Ceremony was a really great way to educate us about the history of Indigenous People, in a way that was interactive and capturing. Personally, I have learned a large amount of the History of Indigenous People but if I’m going to be completely honest, learning out of a textbook is extremely boring and the information usually doesn’t stick in my head. When participating in the activity, I found it much easier to follow along and not just listen and pay attention, but understand what I’m learning and I found myself really into it. Firstly, it was a very interactive exercise, so we were never just sitting at a desk listening to a teacher list facts. Secondly, it was very interesting to have the Ceremony conducted by an Indigenous woman who has first-hand experience with the issue, which made it all more real. Also, hearing the small pieces written by Indigenous people were very interesting to be able to hear from real people who have been affected by the issue, showing that it is not completely fixed and there is much more work to be done. Overall I really enjoyed the experience and think that it’s a great way to educate people while keeping it interesting enough that you’re not just shoving facts in their face.

  5. From attending both the holocaust symposium, and blanket ceremony, I really got a chance to listen to touching stories first hand, and gain further knowledge on Canadian and First Nations People.
    The holocaust symposium was a great experience for me. The speaker, Pinchas Gutter, was captivating for the whole event. He was a great story teller and I learned alto about the war the holocaust from his first hand experience. The holocaust symposium will likely be a once in a life time event to be able to share time a space with a holocaust survivor. Pinchas Gutter’s story really gave me a understanding of a historical human experience in World War II era Europe.
    The blanket ceremony was a good experience to take part in as well. My biggest takeaway from the ceremony was the historical information regarding Canada and Aboriginal relations. The ceremony was a great tactile and visual learning experience, and I really gained a understanding of chronological event that took place involving Canadians and/or the Aboriginals. Both these presentations expressing their experience of genocide was captivating and informative. I am a strong supporter of historical learning from people with first hand experience. Overall it was a great choice to take part in these two event as a class.

  6. The blanket exercise was a great experience in both a spiritual and educational way. It was a very interesting experience in which we all started on turtle island put in place of First Nations people and were split up and broken apart by an Englishman. We have learned about this for years earlier in class, but never in a way as interesting as the blanket exercise. Even though we were acting out history, you could feel a sense of unfairness upon realizing that one person had all the power to chose who would be “out” (die). Using the smallpox infested blankets, or simply by killing off their source of food, it was a very unjust time which was eye opening. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the holocaust symposium as I was under the weather; however, I have heard survivors stories beforehand. Hearing survivors stories about their experiences sends shivers down your spine. While listening to their story, you try to put yourself in their shoes and half the time, you can’t even imagine the hardships they went through. Genocide is a terrible thing that must never be repeated. When learning about history, we tend to focus on the larger things such as genocide. We do this to ensure that something like said event does not reoccur. Between stories of the holocaust and the blanket exercise, the two events have a sort of similarity to them. They both involve genocide and a sort of expulsion from the land they once called home. I enjoyed the blanket exercise as it was a way of learning about Aboriginal history in a way I have never experienced before. My biggest takeaway from the blanket exercise was the relations European ‘settlers’ had with Aboriginal Peoples. My biggest takeaway from any holocaust survivor’s story is the emotion in their voices while they talk about being taken and then being reunited with any surviving family or friends. It is a very emotional part in which contains the biggest message. You are not attacking a group of people, you are attacking individuals. These experiences were both great ways of learning about history.

  7. Unfortunately was unable to attend the Holocaust Symposium but I did get a chance to attend the Blanket Ceremony. To me, the blanket ceremony was an incredible experience and a very good interactive representation of what happened to the Aboriginal people for many years. I found this very eye opening and really got me to think about how the Aboriginals lost so much because of how they were treated. We have learned about this topic for several years at school by reading out of textbooks and honestly none of the information really stayed in my mind for very long. I find it boring to just read out of books and very hard to understand the hardships that they went through. The Blanket Ceremony really helped me gain an understanding of what happened and the order that they occurred in. The part of the ceremony that I was most interesting was when small letters were read out, written by Aboriginal people who had first hand experience and were affected by the problem. Overall I really enjoyed this and it helped me a lot and I think it was a great idea to have the rest of the class take part in the blanket ceremony because it helped a lot of the people who attended understand and have a visual representation of what has happened for so long.

  8. The blanket exercise was a whole new experience. I have been taught history since grade 6 and you find that every teacher teaches history the same. Writing down a numerous amount of notes and watching old movies or documentaries. This blanket exercise was something new and something that really connected everyone together. It tells the story of how First Nation’s people were slowly being killed off. We all started off on the same island but as time went on people were being broken apart and europeans were coming to the First Nation’s peoples land. They brought diseases such as small pox and would be unfair to the First Nations cutting off their food supply. The blanket exercise very much emphasizes how First Nations people were facing genocide because it showed everyone slowly being killed or people were losing their land and being forced to live in such harsh conditions.

    I have heard a few holocaust survivors tell their story of their experiences and as Daniel said in his paragraph it really does send shivers down your spine. The experiences they went through is horrific. You try to picture yourself in their position and feel what its like knowing that their race of people are being killed off one by one and it just brings you to tears. You don’t really know what to say or how to react because of how shocking it is. Genocide is a topic that has happened in the past and hopefully will never happen again. One thing that really struck me were the way the Europeans treated the First Nations. I did know that they were treated unfairly but feeling like you were experiencing it really changes your views on their relationship. Listening to the story of going through the holocaust brings me tears. Knowing that this happened shocks me. It is so surprising that you almost don’t believe that it really happened. In the end, these experiences really helped me learn about history and in my opinion would love to learn about history in that type of way.

  9. For hundreds of years, genocide has occurred in many different countries and colonies across the globe. The notion of genocide is often associated with the deliberate killing of large groups of people. However most people ignore the long term effects associated with genocide. As students, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in Kairos Canada’s blanket activity as well as the 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium. Both experiences reflected on the effects of genocide and were extremely informative. Personally I noticed that each experience had its own unique takeaways and as a result broadened my knowledge on the notion of genocide.

    In Kairos Canada’s blanket activity, I was given the opportunity to participate in an activity simulating Canada’s colonial history in the eyes of indigenous people. We were joined by members of the Wildwood neighborhood as well as members of Kairos including Cree elder Connie Budd. The simulation started off with everyone standing on blankets with one member of Kairos representing a European colonist. Throughout the activity each person read either a script or scroll about various events throughout Canada’s colonial history. As each script was read out, students were either killed or had their blanket folded up simulating a loss of land and resources. Personally I had many takeaways from this experience. By participating in Kairos activity, it allowed me to have a hands on approach towards understanding the problems faced by Indigenous people. I have many takeaways from this experience. First, I learned that European colonists introduced a number of diseases into North America which lead to the deaths of thousands of Indigenous people. Second I learned that the government of Canada formally apologized for using residential schools and in fact gave moeney to those families who were affected by those schools. Aside from these facts, the most important lesson Kairos taught me was that many problems faced by Indigenous people have lasting effects. For example in the activity, it was brought up that land was bought by colonists and Aboriginals were forced out of their land. This had a lasting effect on that particular Indigenous population because they have to restart their lives and adapt to new conditions. Therefore for these reasons I felt that Kairos was extremely informative and gave a hands on approach towards learning. In terms of genocide, I believe although the Indigenous suffered many deaths due to Europeans, they endured more of a cultural genocide. Due to European colonization and the establishment of residential schools, Indigenous peoples were forced and encouraged to assimilate into Western society.

    The 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium was another experience that represented genocide. The speaker, Pinchas Gutter was a Holocaust survivor who endured six concentration camps losing his entire family to Nazis during World War 2. His speech along with his testimony were extremely informative and had numerous takeaways. Although World War 2 lasted for 6 years, the impacts lasted for decades. During his speech Pinchas went on to describe how many survivors suffered PTSD. PTSD is often associated with soldiers however little did I know that Holocaust survivors were also suffering from this disorder. Moreover after listening to his testimony, Pinchas mentioned that he doesn’t want to visit Poland. He stated that he found it hard to picture the physical existence of the death camps. Personally I found this symposium to be informative about genocide in the way it described the aftermath. As a student I learned about the holocaust however I was uneducated about the effect of this horrific experience. The lesson I learned from the symposium is that genocide can last for years, but suffering and memories of those horrific experiences can last forever.

  10. I missed the Blanket ceremony, I was at the Holocaust Symposium. Listening to the Holocaust survivor made me realize how strong Pinchas is to be able to continue on the legacy of the survivors and represent those who are unable to speak about the tragedy. His approach was both personal and historical, he developed the audiences understanding of the issue which was extremely beneficial to my understanding of his background and experience with he Holocaust. Pinchas sharing about his family that did not survive added an element of sadness to the presentation, in my opinion this helped me to realize how few survivors there are left in the world. Reflecting on my experience listening to him encouraged me to think about the struggles of people and how oppression and genocide has a lasting impact on survivors and many families lives. This topic of discussion was also the topic of my major paper. This perspective on the Holocaust added depth to my knowledge of oppression and genocide.

  11. Both the Blanket activity and the 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium were incredible experiences to go through and really helped me empathize with some of the horrors that others were forced to go through. I felt as though both provided an opportunity to gain knowledge and really develop my own experience with each event. It really helped to broaden my understandings of genocide and through the physical representations provided it gave me another way to understand the effects and realities of these horrific events in time.
    Kairos Canada’s blanket activity provided with an opportunity to participate in a small scale simulation of Canada’s colonial history through the eyes and voices of indigenous people. This simulation gave a different approach to understanding the trials that Indigenous people of Canada were forced to go through. While I had known or heard of many of the facts and stories told during the activity, having others read it with physical representations gave me a broader sense of sympathy as I was able to really connect with just how much their lives would have changed. Overall I had a great time participating in the exercise and would highly suggest that others should take part in it if given the opportunity, Kairos has helped me to empathize and develop a deeper understanding for Canada’s colonization and the cultural genocide that aboriginals were forced to endure.
    The 15th Annual Holocaust Symposium was a once in a life opportunity to hear a Holocaust survivor’s story and the realities of the war. Pinchas Gutter, a Holocaust survivor was the keynote speaker at the symposium. His incredible story of enduring 6 concentration camps and being the sole survivor of his entire family was riveting in itself but I think the most impactful for me was how his life experiences influenced his perceptions of the world. For someone to go through such traumatic events my assumption is that often it destroys people, leaving them hopeless and devastated after such horrific losses and seeing such disturbing images. But he wasn’t like that at all, he preached a message of hope one that included stories of joy and gratitude. It was encouraging to hear that rather than a message of hatred towards those that forced him through such horrors, he conveyed a message to help learn so that these events never occur again. Moreover after listening to his incredible testimony I was disturbed but also glad I went. The overwhelming theme I understood from the symposium is that while memories of genocide and horrific events like the holocaust last for years, sometimes lifetimes there is always hope. There is more to live for and to fight for a future.

  12. I unfortunately was not able to attend the blanket ceremony because I was sick but I heard it was very fun and informative. The pictures posted showed a real sense of community, hopefully it’s something I can have the chance to participate in, in the future. I was however able to attend the Holocaust symposium at the U of M. The Holocaust Symposium was a truly amazing opportunity. Hearing a Holocaust survivor’s story was indescribable. Pinchas Gutter’s holocaust experience was heart wrenching, he was placed in 6 concentration camps and was the only survivor in his family. Despite having gone through all of this he was a hopeful man. They way he coped with this experience is so amazing, he still sees the good in people despite living through the worst. He isn’t ashamed of what he’s gone through or resentful, he wants to share his experience with everyone so that we learn. It was truly amazing to see someone make a positive take away from this experience. I thought it was also very moving how he kept in touch with his friend from the camp after all those years apart. It was a life changing speech for me, history has never felt so real. Its sad to think that in a few years people won’t get the opportunity to talk to someone from the Holocaust first hand, its nothing like what you read in a textbook.

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