Torn Apart 32 Years Ago By Canadian Policy Toward Aboriginals, A Mother And Son Met For The First Time.
He called himself Lost Cub, and for years he tried futilely to find his way home.
Then last year, feeling that at last he was closing in, Wayne Snellgrove hired a private investigator to follow up on the final four names on his list. He needed a shield, a buffer from the searing pain of renewed rejection. When the Canadian investigator finally telephoned her news, Snellgrove took the phone to the bedroom, closed the door, and, lying down on the bed, braced himself.
"I found your mother," she said. Then it all tumbled out.
Nora Smoke, a Saulteaux Indian living on a reserve in Saskatchewan, told the investigator, she loved Wayne, always had, that it was the happiest day in her life that he had found her. She had never forgotten the child she'd never seen.
The search had ended; however, the story of a newborn's disappearance three decades ago was yet to be told.
Snellgrove, like many Canadians, calls it kidnapping. Others call it cultural annihilation or cultural genocide. Officially, it's been dubbed the Sixties Scoop.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s and into the mid-80s, thousands of Native children were separated from their mothers and adopted out to middle-class, non-Native families in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
"Some communities lost an entire generation," says Darrell Racine, professor of native studies at Brandon University, in Manitoba, Canada.
At best, say the critics, the action of the Children's Aid Societies, authorized at the time to administer Canada's child welfare services, was misguided. At worst, it was racism.
"It goes back to the usual manifest destiny complex white people have over red people and the idea they are more civilized than aboriginal people. They thought they were doing the aboriginals a favor," says Emma LaRocque, professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba.
The problem was those removing the children were usually white and, because of bias or ignorance of Aboriginal culture, they were, say critics, unqualified to determine what was in the best interest of the native child.