Each adoptees story is unique yet has horrific similarities: being taken away from their parents as young children and placed into non-Native foster homes where they suffered: sexual, physical and emotional abuse, beatings, and had absolutely no contact with their Native ways of life. All the adoptees speak of loneliness, isolation, not being able to successfully integrate back into their nation and felt like they were walking in two worlds.
The term Sixties Scoop was first coined by Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report entitled, Native Children and the Child Welfare System. It refers to the practice of child protection agencies in Canada to apprehend First Nations children and place them into foster care, often into non-Native homes. A practice which spanned over three decades, starting in the 1960s. The Sixties Scoop basically picked up where the residential school system left off.
According to Johnston’s report, it was estimated that over 20,000 First Nations children were taken from their families and placed into mostly white, middle-class families. Colleen Cardinal who is Plains Cree and was born on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, was a victim of the Sixties Scoop, “My two older sisters and I were taken from Edmonton, Alberta at a very young age and placed in two or three foster homes and finally adopted in 1975 into a non -Indigenous household in Ontario.”
She recalls, “I was told we were picked out of a catalogue of Native children up for adoption. My sisters and I (were) terrorized by physical or sexual abuse daily at the hands of our adoptive father who was later charged with sexual crimes against my older sisters.”
Cardinal is now filming a documentary on her experience of the Sixties Scoop era which is about half way complete. The documentary will feature a compilation of stories of six First Nations people from across Canada, who were all victims of the Sixties Scoop era.
She explains why she decided to do this documentary, “That trauma needs to be recognized, acknowledged and stopped. We are becoming aware of the impacts Canadian colonial policy has had on our communities but there are so many urban Indigenous people that are still unaware of what actually happened and how it impacted us… We need our voices heard, most of us are in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s with our own children and are realizing the impacts of intergenerational trauma.”
In doing this documentary, Cardinal explains, “My hopes for this film is that it reaches other adoptees who are struggling with loss of culture, feeling disconnected to their communities, not feeling like they fit in and let them know – you are not alone. Ultimately I would like the film to reach a broader audience in schools, colleges, universities and First Nations communities to help understand how many adoptees were taken and never made it back.”
Part of Cardinal’s healing is sharing her story and inspiring others to share their stories that might not otherwise be heard. “This telling of my story has set me free and unlocked painful memories but it has also given me determination to make sure the intergenerational trauma that my children experienced, don’t pass it on to their children.”
The documentary, which is called The Sixties Scoop: A Hidden Generation, is set to be released this summer. To view the trailer for the documentary, follow the link: http://ahiddengeneration.wordpress.com/.
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