A stolen Culture; who has the right!

One day in a time not that far away a little girl sat before her mirror staring at her reflection wondering who she was… She looked at her long dark brown hair, the coppery/brown tan that kissed her skin. She had just been called a little squaw by friends and family. She wasn’t sure how that made her feel but something tugged at her heart. ‘Why are people implying that I am an Indian when I am English/Scottish?” she asked herself as she examined her high cheekbones, her brown/green hazel eyes and her nose. Deep inside she wondered, tucking that question away quietly in her heart.
As the years mounted in number so did the questions she tucked away in her heart. She knew she was adopted but did not know where she came from. Her parents were awesome to her; she knew they loved her without restraint, but something inside her craved knowledge. Something unnamed called to her very core, something truly missing, something just out of her reach. Drawn to all things Indian, it called to her in the night like a whippoorwill calling to its mate in the soon to fall darkness, an inner craving to her ravenous soul.
That little girl was me. When I was 19 years old I found my birth mother, and guess what, she was Metis or as the government called her family line... “Red skin, mixed or “other Indian breed”. I was astonished when she told me! You see, the non-identifying information given to me by “The Renfrew County Family and Children’s Services” failed to mention the fact that I was aboriginal. They actually purposely withheld that information from my adopted parents. So I was raised in a German Caucasian family, with their culture and traditions but deprived of my birthright as an Indian woman.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my parent’s culture and traditions but deep inside, without even knowing it I longed for my native heritage. No one had the right to keep that from me! No one had the right to make that decision for me! That one decision made by the government stripped from me the very essence of who I am! It is cultural Genocide!
I am not alone, this event in the history of Canada is known as the”60’s Scoop”. Where approximately 16000 aboriginal children were removed from their birth parents either by force or persuaded to give their children up by the Canadian and Provincial governments from the 1960’s until the early 1980’s when the aboriginal peoples of Canada fought back and it was changed in legislation that all aboriginal children who are adopted will be told that they are of aboriginal ancestry. Then placed first with family or another aboriginal family then and only then placed in foster care and adoption. With their cultural background intact!
Adoption is a wonderful thing within its self, but using it to manipulate a society the way one government thinks it should be is wrong on so many levels. In an age where diversity is celebrated and our differences are given credit for the uniqueness that makes us Canada, why are such things still tolerated?
Kenn Richard, director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto said it best “The lesser-known story is the child welfare story and its assimilationist program. And you have to remember that none of this was written down as policy: 'We'll assimilate aboriginal kids openly through the residential schools. And after we close the residential schools we'll quietly pick it up with child welfare.' It was never written down. But it was an organic process, part of the colonial process in general." (www.wrcfs.org/repat/stolennation.htm)

I understand a bit of what you're feeling. I was raised by my biological family, but my great-grandmother's Chippewa/Ojibwa heritage was treated like a "dirty secret" due to the racism at the time. She and her children was born on the Chippewa/Ojibwa reservation in North Dakota -- she was born 1884 and my grandmother was born in 1910.

My great-grandmother went to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in her teens to learn the "trade" of housekeeper -- a school that had the motto "Assimilation in One Generation". There they punished even four- and five-year-old children for speaking their Native dialect with their siblings in the dormitories at night!

Their "English Only" rule couldn't hide the fact from me, decades later, that my great-grandmother had "a funny accent" and looked EXACTLY like "the Indian on the nickel" to me as a very small child, especially when she plaited her long, silver hair at night before sleep. I asked and was admonished that we didn't speak of it because we "didn't want to hurt her feelings" -- as if OUR OWN BLOOD was something to be ashamed of!

My great-grandmother died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 90 when I was a freshman in college. I never did get to speak with her about her heritage -- OUR heritage, MY heritage. It still upsets me when I think of it now, thirty-eight years later.

They didn't "assimilate" me very well. I always put "multi-racial" on any census form or employment or healthcare form that asks me and I have worked on aboriginal and Native American rights projects off and on for decades. I can't imagine denying my beloved matrilineal heritage any more than I would deny being American or deny being female. Sheesh. Racism and xenophobia really have no place in this world. And now that we know the strong connection between Native American genes and propensity for T2 diabetes developing in people on a high-carb, sedentary diet, more than ever people have a right to know and understand their heritage.