Indigenous Child Removals – the Sixties Scoop

Author

Colleen Hele-Cardinal is a Sixties Scoop survivor and co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network. She is nehiyaw iskwew (Plains Cree) from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, AB but was adopted and raised in Sault Ste Marie, ON.

My Story

“Recently, I watched a program called The 8th Fire on CBC, where, in a discussion of the 60s Scoop, a woman who had been adopted spoke of being picked from a catalogue of Indigenous children. I was shocked to hear this because my mother told me that my sisters and I had been picked out of a catalogue. In my mind I keep wondering how this came about; who did the gathering and collecting of photos and files of Indigenous children? The federal government was harvesting Indigenous children to be farmed out to good “white” homes in a way very similar to the Residential Schools initiative to ‘take the Indian out of the child.’ Many Canadians to this day have no idea about it. Indigenous children were systematically and deliberately put into white, European homes to be assimilated.” (Excerpt from Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised somewhere else): A 60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home by Colleen Cardinal).

I am a nehiiyew iskew, adopted and raised in a non-Indigenous household thousands of kilometres away from my territory and my Cree family. Like many Sixties Scoop survivors, I endured tremendous abuse throughout my childhood. And although I was lucky enough to reconnect with my biological family in 1989, the experience was bittersweet. There’s a common misconception that adoptive children will be welcomed home with open arms – this is not the case for most survivors of the Sixties Scoop.

Since May 2021, people in Canada have been made aware of some of the atrocities faced by Indigenous children through residential schools – an important education – but today, I want to share with you another assimilationist policy called the Sixties Scoop. If you’d like to read more of my personal story, check out my book: Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised somewhere else): A 60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home.

History of the Sixties Scoop

The Sixties Scoop refers to the period of time primarily in the late 1950s to early 1980s when over 22,500 Indigenous children were taken, or “scooped”, from their birth families and communities. Children were often taken without consent and adopted into predominately white, middle-class families throughout North America. The process began with amendments to the Indian Act that gave provinces jurisdiction over Indigenous child welfare and was an extension of the racist policies in Canada meant to assimilate Indigenous culture and communities.

Impacts of the Sixties Scoop

Survivors of the Sixties Scoop face many challenges and long-term impacts, from loss of culture and heritage to increased illness such as anxiety, PTSD, and chronic ailments. Survivors grew up with a disconnect from their culture, language, ceremonies, kinships, identities, and connections to their traditional lands, which led to feelings of isolation. Many survivors report suffering sexual, physical, and emotional abuse within the families they were placed with, and later in life, suffered from addiction and homelessness as a result. Even those placed in loving homes were raised without culturally specific education and experiences and felt unable to fit in.

Survivors wishing to reconnect with their birth families face issues accessing their adoption records, and often have birth certificates that were altered, erasing the adoptee’s connection to their biological families, traditional land, and Nation. Those who were adopted abroad must fight to reclaim treaty status and return to Canada, but lack of documentation, resources, and support often hinder repatriation efforts. Those who reconnect can face culture shock and familial tensions, as some families struggle to accept or support the desire to reconnect. Like non-Indigenous people, many survivors are just learning about the Sixties Scoop and how it impacted their lives and families.

Today, Indigenous children are still overrepresented in the child welfare system, accounting for 53.8 percent of all children in foster care despite only being 7.7 percent of the child population (according to Census 2021). Survivors are vastly over-represented in prison populations, with 65.5 percent having gone through the child welfare system. The ongoing violence leading to the disappearances and murder of thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S) is closely linked to displacement from communities due to colonial child welfare practices and policies.

The Sixties Scoop Network

The Sixties Scoop Network is a small, grassroots collective of Indigenous child welfare survivors based in Ottawa, ON. We are dedicated to reconnecting to culture through ceremony, healing, and community-building with other survivors.

Since 2014, we have hosted six national gatherings in Ottawa bringing hundreds of Sixties Scoop survivors from all over North America and overseas, and have been involved in several initiatives, focusing on issues related to Indigenous child removal policies past and present. Currently, we host monthly sweat lodges and annual gatherings in Ottawa, advise on Dr. Raven Sinclair’s Pe-kīwēwin Project, and are part of many other community-building, policy, and research initiatives.

Through Edbendaagziig, the Sixties Scoop Network also designs, develops, and delivers trauma-informed training for folks who are working with Sixties Scoop survivors and their families.

Mapping the Stories of 60s Scoop Survivors Diaspora

The concept for the mapping project began with the idea of using an online GIS mapping platform to show what the Sixties Scoop looked like for survivors who were displaced from their traditional homelands and territories. In collaboration with Dr. Raven Sinclair’s Pe-kīwēwin Project, this innovative and first-of-its-kind GIS interactive mapping program is a tool for 60s Scoop survivors to:

  • Visualize the displacements of Sixties Scoop survivors across Canada, the US, and overseas by province and territory.
  • Provide a collective platform to share our stories, videos, and photos.
  • Provide search functions and a database for survivors and their families still looking for extended families.

The goal of the project is to become a visual tool to represent the truths of survivors, through as many survivor submissions as possible. Survivors can directly input their information into the online mapping system and can share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with, including videos, pictures, and short narratives about themselves. If survivors choose to locate family members, they have the option of uploading a picture, video, or details on the person whom they are looking for and/or who may be looking for them. The Sixties Scoop Network will have access to the platform’s data, but participants have the option of removing any of their identifying visual data from the platform at any time.

If you would like to learn more, visit our website at sixtiesscoopnetwork.org/. You can also view or add to the digital map of the Sixties Scoop survivors’ diaspora.

#DoSomething

Learn. To continue learning about the Sixties Scoop, visit sixtiesscoopnetwork.org/, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund’s online resources on child welfare, and read Colleen’s book, Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised somewhere else): A 60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home.

Share. Share the above resources with your friends and family.

Support. Donate to the Sixties Scoop Network to help them continue their important work.

Sources:

https://scoinc.mb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Background-for-60s-Scoop-map.pdf

https://sixtiesscoopnetwork.org/