THE EXCHANGE EXPERIENCE:
VALIDATING 500 YEARS OF FIRST NATIONS HISTORY
The Exchange Experience is an interactive, experiential learning workshop within an Indigenous traditional teaching framework. *The Exchange Experience is an instructional model that can be adapted to explore any theme or content specific to your organizations' needs. It thrives on the many-layered Teachings of the Circle in concept, structure, content, and as the facilitator’s tool. The current workshop offer, Validating 500 Years of First Nations History, guides participants through a creative learning process to learn about Treaties, The Indian Act, Policies of Assimilation, the Reserve system, and the Residential School era framed within traditional Teachings and concepts. The facilitator expertly instructs theatre skill-building techniques then, provides resources skilfully transformed into scene or script for participants to interpret then demonstrate their learning. Through a distinctly creative process, inexperienced performers craft original theatre with – and for – each other. They become the creative collaborators exploring, in this case, First Nation historical, political, and social issues. They work together to validate the Indigenous experience while sensitizing mainstream Canadians’, new Canadians’, or visitors’ understandings of diverse Indigenous histories and worldviews.
I am still in awe of the beautiful way in which Suzanne was able to be so incredibly gentle in delivering such “charged” content and the way she kept everyone so safe throughout the day. These experiences are now
embedded in our hearts, minds, and beings. It was truly an honor to be a part of this important work.
Designated Spiritual Keeper for the Exchange Experience, Montreal, QC.
Reg’d ANQ naturotherapist
Coach & Motivational Speaker
I am grateful for the gift of attending Ms. Keeptwo's interactive theatre workshops at Saw Gallery and at Carleton University. Through Ms. Keeptwo's skill and coaching, the residential school experience flooded through my body and reached deep into my heart and soul in a way that supports my journey as a "settler" walking side by side with my Aboriginal brothers and sisters. Not to be missed.
Bertha Mo, Ph.D., MPH
It was an amazing experience that I will never forget...being able to “see” and “feel” history come alive before your eyes. I had known that my own family members had gone through the Residential School era but, until I participated in this exchange, I had not been able to get a good perspective on what the experience might have been like for them. I was deeply, emotionally moved and glad that the workshop was able to give me a sense of perspective that I would have never gotten through a history textbook. Suzanne has built a culturally sensitive workshop that should be experienced by as many people as possible.
Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation (SK)
Aboriginal Storyteller & Storyhealer Facilitator
I have only positive things to say about the Exchange Experience workshop – the use of music, vocal exercises and teamwork were all incredible! I co-taught a land-based course a few years ago and although it was a full week, Suzanne managed to create a similar level of safety, group cohesion and educational experience in such a short period of time. It was really, really well done.
Elizabeth Fast, PhD
Department of Applied Human Sciences
I would like to say a sincere Miigwetch for this precious workshop. Many teachings/learnings, feelings, and
energies have stayed with me throughout the weekend, recognizing there are so many gifts that emerge from
engaging with our artistic selves! I’ve had the Louis Riel quote about it being the “artists that bring back the
spirit” in my heart all weekend and will continue to keep it there! Miigwetch :)
Master's Student of Applied Humanities & Science
I believe change can happen when we experience a revelation in our very bones and bodies. Performance can do that, and when I participated in Suzanne’s Exchange Experience workshop I saw how effectively she has integrated a performance mode into her teaching about crucial history—history that all Canadians need to know. This is important work! Thank you for showing us a model for how it can be done.
Dr. Will Weigler,
author of From the Heart: How 100 Canadians Created an Unconventional Theatre Performance about Reconciliation (VIDEA, 2015) and Strategies for Playbuilding: Helping Groups Translate Issues into Theatre (Heinemann, 2001)
I do hope that you keep on with this type of presenting 500 years of history that for the most part is hard to
swallow but, when done in this gentle respectful way, it works!! I love the interactive, playful, theatrical approach.
It really penetrates to our very core. Singing, playing etc. was very effective, in my opinion, a full body experience. Thank you for that.
Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation, Yukon
I experienced Suzanne Keeptwo's Exchange last year and was able to reflect on the hidden history of our nation from my heart AND my head. It was amazing to think that 500 years of history could be experienced so
profoundly! Suzanne's work on this education project has centred "heart-spirit" knowledge. One cannot come out of this untouched--intellectually and emotionally. In an era where the call to "truth" and "reconciliation" is heralded, this culturally-based workshop is a must, especially for settlers who have been sheltered from knowing the truth.
Recipient of the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching (2011).
Co-ordinator, Project of Heart
I enjoyed every minute of this interactive and collaborative experience, and did not want it to end! Suzanne has the unique ability to blend so many elements into one holistic piece. It is difficult to put into words the magic of this kind of learning/sharing practice. It functions as theatre performance, experiential learning, community building, and cultural affirmation. The history of our peoples has never been so effectively “experienced” in such a safe, heartfelt, and traditionally based format. This “Exchange” was truly magical! Chi Migwetch!
I participated in the Exchange Experience and found it not only intellectually informative but physically and emotionally impacting. I was able to step into history and empathize deeply with the Aboriginal experience from
our local history and current reality and then share with others about that learning. Wonderful!
Actor, director, teacher, facilitator, team builder, counselor
I found Suzanne Keeptwo’s Exchange engaging, collaborative, moving, creative and fun. I would highly recommend this piece to anyone wanting a better understanding of Aboriginal history in Canada – and well worth the participation over the course of an afternoon. Such active involvement makes the experience stick, and I still reflect on it. Thank you! Best wishes! Miigwtech,
Dr. Lorna Tener
I had so much fun and never have done theatre before. It was a great learning experience with some pretty
awesome people. I hope to continue doing this sort of creative expression again if you have another one! I liked
the whole experience! Learning how to work together was fun also, seeing all the different improvisations was so awesome!! You were a great facilitator; I had no problem with the directions!
Colleen Cardinal (Hele)
Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 6 (AB)
Community Organizer & Event Planner
Families of Sisters Vigil Comunity Feast & Ceremony
Indigenous Adoptee Gathering
As a two-time participant in Suzanne Keeptwo’s Exchange workshops, I can testify that she has carefully designed a powerful experiential learning encounter that brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together to work through recognition of First Nation’s realities from pre-contact times to the present. Each exercise is ingenuously focused around the simple but versatile prop of the blanket as symbolic of many elements of Indigenous culture and experience: an artistic creation, an object of exchange, and a disease-laden tool of cultural genocide. As an exercise in grassroots reconciliation, members from Settler and Indigenous communities create, laugh, learn (and sometimes cry) together. Keeptwo’s Exchange will make a skillful contribution to the necessary inter-community conversations we need to keep having in a variety of settings. Suzanne Keeptwo is professional and imaginative, skilfully guiding people with no theatrical background through theatre exercises and creation as a medium for self-reflection and greater awareness of how we might move beyond statement in relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Dr. Brenda Vellino
Departments of English & Canadian Studies
As the last person ever to volunteer for a theatre experience as a participant, this was a blessing! The structure provided a message that all Canadians need to hear. Everyone was an actor or actress on this day, and it was truly fun. I learned how to listen to the wisdom of women, and the First Nation experience in a way I could not have imagined!
JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence)
Consultant, Neutral Corner Solutions
Thanks a million, Suzanne, for your extraordinary teachings. I had the privilege of attending three of your Exchanges and had a blast with your varied theatrical exercises and scene work, with such an interesting group of people each time. I can't get enough of the exercises, as different groups bring different dynamics and interestingly, different results which make it a wonderful experience every time. As a professional actor, I had a wonderful experience and learned a great deal. Thanks again for your wisdom and teachings that keep me learning more.
(former) President of the Ottawa Métis Council
It was a wonderfully useful decolonizing experience for me to work through Canadian history through the eyes of Indigenous-based theatrical exercises. It brought a lot of issues to my attention in a very raw, visceral way and I could NEVER go back to concepts I had from before this experience. This workshop teaches fundamental facts about this country's history which have long been ignored and dismissed; facts that are crucial for the empathy, understanding, and respect which we profoundly need to feel in order to create the Fair Country which we desire to participate in. Meegwetch Suzanne.
Visual Artist & New Canadian,
The entire dramatic exploration processes were fabulous - the cultural perspective was particularly impactful for me, and have really assisted me in taking pride in myself as an Aboriginal woman - the teachings helped me to affirm my innate place in the circle of life. The kinesthetic gut-wrenching feelings that were evoked by the very cleverly and carefully designed modules speaks of the "way out of the box" creative style and gift Suzanne clearly exudes. I feel much more calm, grounded and centered, and ready to embrace the next steps on my path to wholeness. GREAT, GREAT Gratitude!!!
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
I want to say "BRAVO" for a fabulous afternoon! It was so well organized. Overall, I found this performance piece/workshop very stimulating and creative. This was very informative for people who are not aware of the history of Canada (FYI- throughout my academic work, I study the history of Canada and appreciated all the details Suzanne included). The Exchange Experience is a wonderful teaching tool!
Cynthia Stirbys, PhD
Cowessess First Nation, Treaty 4 (SK)
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
University of Windsor
I am someone who has a VERY hard time surrendering to others' workshops, in part because as a facilitator myself, I find myself staying in an objective, detached role. Suzanne's workshop broke my "critical onlooker"
habit by her amazing ability to bring material to life, make very difficult subjects meaningful and accessible to a group of strangers and by getting my creativity, my heart and my body moving. At the same time, she is one of the most powerful "holders of space" I have ever had the pleasure to meet - she was clear with guidelines, supportive and directive in equal doses, and carved out room for people to explore and be creative without it feeling "just for the sake of being creative" or loosey-goosey. There was intentionality to what she did that still takes my breath away.
As someone so used to workshops where we "make meaning" immediately, to "debriefing" and to "getting creative to then get verbal" it was unbelievably refreshing to attend a workshop where the debriefing was there, but with a space to experience without explanation - there were things said and things left unsaid, room to
digest and opportunities to let things take their own time to emerge. I cannot stress enough how gifted and
unique Suzanne's pedagogical skills are, and how much your group or team can benefit from her presence and expertise. What a powerful day, and what a powerful woman. Miigwech!
Kit Malo, MA
Estuaries Learning Consulting Group