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 ( Read the full ver­sion of the in­ter­view with Colleen Car­di­nal at can­­di­nal.

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.

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