The rights activist discusses her project to map the displacement of ’60s Scoop adoptees
Colleen Cardinal, rights activist, ’60s Scoop survivor and diaspora mapper
Between the 1960s and 1980s, an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their homes and communities and placed in foster care or adopted to primarily white families. The effects of what is known as the ’60s Scoop — an effort to assimilate Indigenous Peoples and culture in Canada — are still felt today, with Indigenous children continuing to be overrepresented in Canadian child welfare systems. Colleen Cardinal, a Plains Cree ’60s Scoop survivor, co-founder of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network and author of the new book Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised Somewhere Else), has embarked on a project to create an interactive map of the movement of ’60s Scoop adoptees. On the goal of the map As I shared my own story online, more and more adoptees started contacting me, telling me they were taken as far as England, New Zealand and Australia, so I decided to show our displacement at an international level on a map. I’m creating this in collaboration with academic Raven Sinclair’s Pe-kiwewin Project, which examines how Canadian policies resulted in a national Indigenous child removal system, the Indigenous community-focused Firelight Group and Geolive, a University of British Columbia mapping project. It’s going to be shameful for Canada to see this, but it will be an important tool for us to educate, collect data and share our stories. Survivors will also be able to use the map to find information about themselves and their biological families. On her personal connection to the project My two sisters and I are from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, about 1½ hours northeast of Edmonton. We were taken from our parents when I was a baby, put into foster care and then adopted and taken to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. We were raised in an extremely abusive home. All of us had run away by the time we were 15 years old. My older sister was murdered in 1990, a year after we repatriated [to Alberta]. Today, I volunteer with the Families of Sisters in Spirit organization to educate people about how child welfare policies have affected missing and murdered Indigenous women. A lot of us grew up in abusive homes, and we ended up fleeing those homes only to be killed by people we interacted with — there’s a big connection there. Much of my work is inspired by my sister. She was a fighter. On the scope of the ’60s Scoop Children were predominantly taken from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and
placed in homes in Ontario and the United States, although hundreds — perhaps even thousands — were also taken overseas. We are the original people of the land. What were we doing being shipped all over the place? No effort went into keeping our families together and providing services for those who needed them or anything like that. We were advertised through newspapers and on television, like how you would for a pet. Those children are now adults who are looking to come home, and they don’t even know where they’re from.
On bringing ’60s Scoop survivors together
Besides the l oss of culture, the thing about being a ’60s Scoop survivor and being raised in a non-indigenous environment is that it makes you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere and that you have no one to talk to. You don’t feel like you fit in with your white family — even though some families were great to the adoptees and provided love and support — and you may not have support from your biological family either. This map will build a community for ’60s Scoop adoptees across Canada and internationally. It will say, “Look, here we are. We’re over here.” The government still needs to deal with us. We’re still here. ’60s Scoop adoptees can take part in this mapping project by submitting their information through the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network (niscw.org). Read the full version of the interview with Colleen Cardinal at cangeo.ca/ja18/cardinal.
Colleen Cardinal is charting the displacement of ’60s Scoop adoptees so the survivors can share their stories.
Colleen Cardinal (right) and her sisters Patti (left) and Gina in 1975, after being adopted.