Tuesday, June 05, 2018


At present the US government’s policy of seizing and imprisoning the children of a stigmatized category with the goal of controlling the parents has been seen as heinous on grounds of compassion.  There’s no question that keeping them in secret prisons under constant florescent lights with low temperatures ameliorated only by sheets of tinfoil, watched through cyclone fencing by men with little training or sympathy, given dubiously nutritious food, is an atrocity.  The ages of these children range down to infancy.  Americans shudder at the description.

But I see something different and it is not fantasy.  Because of my knowledge of the Blackfeet — I mean friendship knowledge of specific people rather than anything in a book — my Twitter circle includes a lot of Canadians.  This tribe was split between two countries.  

Paul Seesequasis’ book of photographs of northern indigenous people reaches up to the Inuit and includes Blackfeet, Cree, and Metis.  Watching his book develop has alerted me to much lost history of these people.  One phenomenon is the “Sixties Scoop,” when indigenous children were taken from their families and homes, their culture and identity, on grounds that the parents were drunks, poverty-stricken, savages.  The children were placed with white families, using the legal machinery meant to rescue children from intolerable mistreatment, and for the most part were accepted and treated as lovable — until they reached puberty.  Then the stigma returned.

In the US the practice was residential schools but also this adoption railroad, and then under Eisenhower the strategy of relocation when near-adults were sent to cities with the prospect of learning to weld and type, but not funded enough to get a proper foothold.  Some did, most didn’t and were trapped in ghettos where what they learned was not good citizenship.

In fact, what the governments of these two countries created was an internal hatred and potential revolution that we are only beginning to feel.  My Twitter feed expresses that bottomless suspicion of authorities, constant fear of seizure, drifting inability to define an identity, can do to what is a legal citizenry.  They are potential insurgency.  We are hoping they will become a kind of seizers themselves: grabbing the democratic vote on paper (hopefully not twisted electronically) and using it as it was ideally meant to be.  In the meantime they vote with their feet and their lives, going to the locations of projected pipelines, dams, and fracking fields to prevent the damage to the land and its resources — suddenly valuable after centuries of being considered nothing, empty.  Now that minorities, en masse and in collusion, are becoming the majority, the old white men suddenly see their end.

The time of reparation and what is called “healing” has begun but it is just as painful as the original offences, and that includes the impact on the original offenders, those with consciences.  White people who adopted tribal kids were often acting in good faith, assuming the kids would be grateful.  Those who are “woke” are heartsick.

History documents that the Sixties Scoop was not limited to one decade but rather went on so long it is now called the Millennial Scoop.

“The term "Sixties Scoop" was coined by researcher Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System.  It is similar to the term "Baby Scoop Era," which refers to the period from the late 1950s to the 1980s when large numbers of children were taken from unmarried mothers for adoption. The continued practice of taking Indigenous, Inuit and MĂ©tis children from their families and communities and placing them in foster homes or for adoption is termed Millennium Scoop.

“The government policies that led to the Sixties Scoop were discontinued in the mid-1980s, after Ontario chiefs passed resolutions against them and a Manitoba judicial inquiry harshly condemned them.[8] Associate Chief Judge Edwin C. Kimelman headed the judicial inquiry, which resulted in the publication of the No quiet place / Review Committee on Indian and Metis Adoptions and Placements, also known as the Kimelman Report."

Institutional strategies with the weight of medical, academic, and psychological self-serving ideas sent unaccompanied children away for treatment for TB, assuming that they were like household domestic animals rather than the vulnerable and developing human beings they really were.  They mostly survived, though not always, and always with damage where it could not be seen.

“The devastating effects of the residential schools are far-reaching and continue to have significant impact on Aboriginal communities. Because the government's and the churches’ intent was to eradicate all aspects of Aboriginal culture in these young people and interrupt its transmission from one generation to the next, the residential school system is commonly considered a form of cultural genocide.”

In Canada  “First Nations communities responded to the loss of their children and the resulting “cultural genocide” both by repatriating children whose adoptions failed and working to regain control over child welfare practices related to their children, starting in 1973 with the Blackfoot (Siksika) child welfare agreement in Alberta. While there are about 125 First Nations Child and Family Service Agencies across Canada, they operate through a patchwork of agreements that give them authority from the provincial government to provide services and funding from the federal government.  

The idea was not just to make the “Indian” become “white” or at least Christian, had unforeseen side-effects.  “The report found that Manitoba's non-Indigenous agencies often required single, Indigenous mothers to live on their own, as opposed to in traditional, multi-generational households, to regain custody of their children.

“This demand goes against the native patterns of child care. In the native tradition, the need of a young mother to be mothered herself is recognized. The grandparents and aunts and uncles expect the demands and rewards of raising the new member of the family. To insist that the mother remove herself from the support of her family when she needs them most is unrealistic and cruel.”

The most atrocious aspect of this whole farrago was that it was practiced in the name of religion, Christianity trying to crush the pre-existing Sacredness of life on the prairie.  The great irony is that the modern conversion of true Christianity into a scheme for prosperity has set the indigenous world free to be poor but alive in a world that can be restored to Holiness, redeeming those who were seized because they could be.

(Quotes are from the "Sixties Scoop" entry on Wikipedia and are therefore anonymous.)

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