To increase participants’ awareness of their ancestral and geographical trajectories to the current place by embodying and visualizing their histories.
Note to facilitator
- You can facilitate this activity as an introduction to the timeline, as a way to initiate a conversation about our relationships to the local geographical space that we occupy in a broad and yet tangible way.
- Make it homework for participants prior to the activity to do research about their ancestral roots, if they are not familiar with it. Have them document their research process – Who did they talk to? What questions did they ask? What information did they prioritize? Was the information easily accessible? Why or why not? What was the research process like for them? What did they find interesting or challenging?
- This activity may trigger various emotions among participants. It may put Indigenous participants “on the spot” in the end by illuminating that their families have always been in Canada. For some other participants, it may evoke settler guilt or difficult memories of their disrupted family ties due to forced migration or dislocation. Step 2 of the activity is intended to prepare participants for the emotional experience of the activity.
- Clear the room to make a large empty space.
- Draw a large circle on the floor in the centre of the room. (Tip: Masking tape or string can be useful.)
- Identify the directions: North, South, West, and East. You may put signs on the wall.
- Explain that the circle represents Canada and the four directions: North, South, West, and East.
- Tell participants that this activity will ask them to reflect on their individual ancestral roots and that it is not always an easy process for many of us, regardless of where we come from. You, as a facilitator, may:
- Share a story about your own identities while modeling the movements that will be part of this activity. As you tell your story, move throughout the space as you have directed the participants to do. You may share: Where your ancestors come from, various factors that have shaped your identities (e.g., government policies, political events, family’s narratives, lived experiences), and how your identities have shifted over time. Sharing this narrative is to address the multifaceted and fluid nature of our identities.
- Acknowledge the discomfort and unsettled feelings that may arise from this activity regardless of one’s relationship to this place. If applicable, speak about your own discomfort when you told your story. Speaking about the affect connected to this activity openly is one way for participants to see it as “OK” to bring it up and models a way to do this.
- Explain the rationale of this activity despite its risks. This activity is intended to provide participants with an entry point to articulate their relationship to the local geographical spaces that we occupy today. The more we think and reflect on this, the more we become aware of our identities and are able to represent and articulate this to others.
- Put all the participants in the current location (e.g., If you are in Vancouver, put everyone in the South-West area of the circle.) and tell where they are now (e.g., “We are now in Vancouver.”).
- Ask them to move to the place according to your direction one by one:
- Move to where you were born. (If they were born outside Canada, they need to move to a direction of their place of birth outside the circle. This applies to the following statements.)
- Move to where one of your parents was born.
- Move to where one of your grand parents was born.
- Move to where one of your great grand parents was born.
- Move to where one of your great-great grand parents was born.
- Have everyone look around the room.
- Discussion – Some of the debriefing questions could be:
- What happened?
- Was there anyone in the circle in the end? What does that mean?
- What does this exercise tell us about our relationship to this place?
- If you could redesign this activity what would it look like? What questions should we add?