GTPulse: Watershed Church Teaches Native American History Through Interactive Workshop

Native American culture and history is the stock of northern Michigan culture. Michigan’s First People came from tribes Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Menominee, Miami, Ojibwe and Potawatomi.

“Before Columbus quote unquote ‘discovered’ it,” Pastor Jared Yaple said.n

Jared is the pastor of Watershed Church in Traverse City, Michigan and the church is hosting its first blanket exercise this Saturday at the Traverse Area District Library. The workshop is open and free to all, and it’s intended purpose is for people to understand the history of Native land.

The blanket exercise is an hour long, interactive history lesson that was started by KAIROS Canada in order to foster reconciliation with Indigenous people. The exercise is guided by a facilitator and begins with blankets spread out all over the floor. The blankets are representative of North America and attendees will stand on different blankets that represent different parts of the continent. The facilitator acts as the part of European explorers and settlers and walks participants through life before settlers, all the way to resistance. Participants represent different tribes in different parts of North America, and as history progresses the tribes end up closer and closer together as they lose their land and end up on reserves.

“As a church we want to love our neighbors, and we can’t love our neighbors if we don’t know our neighbors. We wanted to do this so we could give people in northern Michigan an opportunity to learn the history of Native Americans.”

The exercise began in 1997 as a response to the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996 and has been performed across Canada and the United States thousands of times since. In recent years the idea of Columbus discovering North America has become less widely accepted. Many of us were raised with history lessons that came from a pro-colonization perspective and were not taught that Native people lost their home. Jared hopes that the Indigenous perspective of the exercise will open peoples minds up to understanding the bigger historical picture.

“It’s pretty hard hitting,” Jared said. “It’s hard emotionally to engage with that history because it’s not great. Working through that history together as a public group and thinking through something that could potentially be upsetting and emotional.”

Jared hopes to see a wide range of ages at the workshop, but suggests that children be at least 10 years of age. The event will be hosted by Watershed Church and facilitated by Native American leaders and members of the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Race Relations. joins the workshop.

“We would be honored by the Grand Traverse Band of any Native Americans who would participate. But, it’s definitely an open invitation to the community. We really hope that adults and families might attend.”

Although this is the first blanket exercise that Watershed Church has held, Native history is close to the church’s heart. Earlier this year in June.

“We held a free community event at a church where we brought in a member of the Grand Traverse Band who’s a Indigenous law professor at Michigan State. We want to set up more opportunities where people can listen, so they can learn the stories of the first people who lived here and I think that puts people in the best disposition to either say thank you for the way Native Americans took care of this land for many generations, or to just sit with it and say ‘I’m sorry.’ We’re not looking to beat anyone up, it’s just easier to move forward when everyone has the same understanding of history.”

The class is free and will be held at TADL in the McGuire Room this Saturday at 10 a.m. The program is neither sponsored or endorsed by TADL.

Categories: GTPulse