Monday, July 14, 2008

The Legacy Continues - Part 2 - Meyer

“The Sixties Scoop” is what Aboriginal people call the en masse removal of Aboriginal children from their homes and communities – and the placement of these children into non-Aboriginal foster homes.

Some people believe this was a direct attempt on the government’s part to further the cultural genocide begun with the residential schools – their stated policy to “kill the Indian in the child.”

But when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on June 11, 2008, to the Aboriginal people of Canada for the residential school fiasco, he was also apologizing to the people who did not go to Indian boarding schools but who still suffered the effects.

The kids that were taken away from their parents at age 4, 5, or 6 and were not returned until they were teens (usually at age 16), found they were no longer equipped (with language and life skills) to live on the reservations but they were also unable to live in white society. Their attempts to disclose about the sexual and physical abuse they had experienced were met with disbelief and denial. Many of these teens turned to alcohol to numb the pain.

Then these kids had kids. And those kids were taken into foster care.

My mother took care of approximately 1,000 First Nations children over a period of about 30 years. The average number in our household was 20-25. (photo insert is of kids at my mother's house - I'm 4th from the left in the back row). Back then, a lot of kids shared rooms and even beds, so that part was fairly normal but the very high number of children in our home didn’t allow for much individuality or personal development. And, as with the residential school system, being taken away from EVERYTHING that was familiar to you and being plunged into a totally foreign environment away from your mom and dad and grandma and grandpa, probably had the most detrimental effect on these children.

And because these were the kids of the kids who had been taken away into residential school facilities, this effected an entire generation (or possibly two or three or four generations, depending on how you want to count it).

The legacy of residential schools will be with us for a while yet. Many, many First Nations people are rising above the crippling effects of this government policy (one organization that is doing great work is I believe that Stephen Harper’s apology will help. Our attitudes will also help. As representatives of Jesus, let’s not mess up this time ‘round.

Dorene Meyer
Author of Deep Waters, a compelling contemporary novel that will give you the opportunity to “walk a mile in the shoes” of Gracie, a First Nations residential school survivor, and experience her reconciliation to Sarah, the daughter who had been taken away from her at birth.

There is no “them and us” – there is only “us.”

1 comment:

Linda Wegner said...

Thanks so much for this blog and for your writing. As non-First Nation people, we're suffering the effects as well: stereotypical images of ne'er do well "Indians" are branded in our minds as a result of these injustices. As you wrote, let's get it right this time - both nationally and individually.

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