“The history books are awash with the atrocities leveled against the Indigenous peoples of North America since European settlers first arrived on this continent in the 15th century. Despite this consensus among historians, the United States federal government has never formally acknowledged how its policies directly led to the near eradication of the Native inhabitants of this land. A formal acknowledgement needs to occur. Healing for all parties begins with the truth.” ―Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project
One residential school survivor tells her story through her children’s storybook. She states,
We were told what time to get up, what time to eat, when to pray and when to go to the bathroom. Everything was timed; everything was regulated, and I realize that during that process they had stolen my will…my will to do anything and my freedom of choice in all matters. If we didn’t do what we were told they’d take you to the principal’s office and they’d pull down your pants and give it to you on your bare ass. Also during this process, we weren’t allowed to speak our language and we were taught nothing about our traditional ways, or our heritage or anything about our culture… (Harper, 1993, p. 3).
Since the inception of residential schools in Canada, Indigenous people have suffered a serious blow to our communities and our ways of life, the most prominent loss being the loss of our languages. Taiaiake Alfred states in his book, Peace, Power and Righteousness, “Our bodies may live without our languages, lands, or freedom, but they will be hollow shells. Even if we survive as individuals, we will no longer be what we Rotinonhsyonni call Onkwehonwe—the real and original people—because the communities that make us true indigenous people will have been lost.” (Alfred, 1999, p. xv).
My parents who adopted me had no idea I was stolen,” said Nina Segalowitz, a child of what’s known as the 60s Scoop. “They had no idea the scope of how many kids…had been stolen and were in the system.” Segalowitz grew up in Montreal, the daughter of a white Jewish father and a Filipino mother. But she was born Anne-Marie Thrasher, in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. LINK: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/real-talk-on-race-sixties-scoop-not-recognized-1.3494343
Telling our stories is a critical piece to healing the trauma of Indigenous adoption and so, as an adoptee, it is important to be both a teller and someone who “bears witness” to the stories of others. Although I am happy to be closing the door on telling mine, there are so many stories yet to be told.—Raven Sinclair, LAND OF GAZILLION ADOPTEES
“Storytelling is an important aspect of Ojibwe culture. My ability to tell a good tale can be used as a tool for teaching and connecting. Even though I grew up outside of my Native community and culture, my stories helped me to become a part of the community that I had lost. Adoption is part of the contemporary tales that Native people need to tell…” —Tamara Buffalo, published author-poet-visual artist
One by one, as the years pass me by, I still find it so amazing that the grief and trauma that I still carry from being separated at birth from my mother continues to follow me around and exposes itself at the most inconvenient times. I feel like my heart and spirit is that of a gypsy where although I physically stay in one place, my soul keeps wandering around searching and gets so lost. I often stuff it back into its compartment but at times it just creeps out with no warning and slaps me upside the head and I am forced to confront the emotions time and time again. I don’t know that I will ever actually organize this all within myself and find a place of comfort and peace with it all.” —Janey Martin Hart, Red Lake Ojibwe Split Feather Adoptee, 2011
It’s not just about removing children, it’s dismantling every aspect of their being in the process. —gkisedtanamoogk, First Light Film
Media coverage accounted for the large impact of the [Indian Adoption] project. It induced white couples to adopt Native children. …Indian Adoption Project Director Arnold Lyslo listed the main newspaper articles which contributed to stimulate the desire of white couples to adopt a Native child. [For example,] Arlene Gilberman’s article, “My forty-five Indian godchildren” issued in the review, Good Housekeeping. Eight hundred couples favourably responded to it. Other articles such as “God forgotten Children,” “Indian children find homes” and “Interracial Adoption” also encouraged white couples to adopt a Native child. —Claire Palmiste [“From the Indian Adoption Project to the Indian Child Welfare Act: the resistance of Native American communities,” Indigenous Policy Journal Vol. XXII, No. 1 (Summer 2011).]