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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Healing the Family Within

Katie Roubideux: Rosebud Sioux.

Friendship Centre starts ‘60s Scoop healing group

The Brandon Friendship Centre has launched a new program focused on helping ’60s Scoop survivors navigate their healing journey.

The Friendship Centre Healing Foundation was created using grant money provided by the ’60s Scoop Foundation to help survivors heal from the trauma of their experiences, said new co-ordinator Debbie Huntinghawk. The funding will support the foundation for a year, she said, but their hope is it will be able to build a successful program that will run for many years to come.

The ’60s Scoop is part of Canada’s colonial legacy and involved the removal of Indigenous children from their parents, families, communities and cultures. It left a generation of traumatized youth who have struggled to find their place in their communities and country because they have no cultural identity or community ties, she said.

These survivors are now middle-aged community members coping with significant pain and trauma from their loss of identity and place.

“They’re homeless, they’re lost, struggling to find their identity, their language and where they belong,” Huntinghawk said.

Talking about surviving the ’60s Scoop is a heartbreaking experience that leaves survivors with raw emotions that need tending to heal. The foundation will help facilitate healing through education, support, trauma-informed care, understanding of the ’60s Scoop and meeting survivors where they are at on their life journeys.

“We’re walking with people, not pulling them or dragging them or pushing them. We’re walking with people as they are doing their healing,” said cultural support worker Deborah Tacan. “We sit there and we talk heart-to-heart.”

Tacan is a ’60s Scoop survivor. She had six brothers, who were taken and adopted across Canada and the United States.

They were never brought back together as a family when they were children, but they did find each other again as adults. But there is not that same connection as if they had grown up as a family with their other relatives.

She noted ’60s Scoop survivors faced a life-changing experience because they were physically removed from their families and communities. All of their ties to their culture and traditions were cut off when they were youth just beginning to learn who they are.

“They were stripped of their whole culture. They never went back to their communities,” Tacan said. “They were never brought back — it interrupted their kinship ties … aunties, uncles, we don’t have those connections to those people because you are taken right out of your culture.”

These experiences left survivors unmoored, without an identity and craving meaningful connections.

The goal of the foundation is to help people understand the painful loss of these familial and community connections and the trauma inflicted on survivors, Tacan said.

It is a challenging conversation because many survivors blame their parents for what happened to them as children, Tacan said. She and her siblings understand all the systemic barriers in place that led to their removal from their family.

She hopes to help people understand and heal from these traumatic thoughts that have left deep wounds on the soul.

It is important to engage in these healing and recovery practices with survivors, Huntinghawk said, so future generations do not have to carry the trauma brought on by the ’60s Scoop.

Huntinghawk said in many cases, Indigenous children taken during the scoop were placed in non-Indigenous homes. It was a context where they were raised to think their culture, heritage and traditions were inferior.

This happened to her mom, and the trauma was passed onto Huntinghawk growing up. Her mother was taken and raised in a Catholic household and removed from her Indigenous identity.

“For me when I grew up, I was always told it was no good to be an Indian. It was bad,” Huntinghawk said. “I had that ingrained in my head for years, that you don’t want to be a part of that ‘savage’ community.”

It was a toxic ideology to grow up with, she said, and it took time and work to heal from. It was challenging to hear her mother’s experiences growing up in a non-Indigenous home, especially because she had 13 other siblings she was taken from.

“I feel like I’m doing the healing work for my mom because my mom didn’t get to heal,” Huntinghawk said. “She didn’t get to do that work.”

It has been an amazing experience helping those who come to the Brandon Friendship Centre doors looking for aid, she said.

Huntinghawk recently worked with one survivor who was born in Manitoba and sent to Ontario during the ’60s Scoop.

He later returned to the province living with addiction and homelessness. Huntinghawk said he was in a challenging position because he did not know where to start on his healing journey.

His visit to the Friendship Centre was spurred by his application for a compensation settlement from the federal government as part of a class-action lawsuit was denied.

“His brother and sister got it, but not him because he messed up on his application,” Huntinghawk said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to support them and get them established.”

She helped him find the name of the housing co-ordinator support person and is also working to help him re-apply for ’60s Scoop compensation.

“All we do is listen to what they need from us,” Huntinghawk said.

The man was not in a unique situation, she said, as many survivors are denied their applications because they are unhoused. They do not have a way to keep correspondence during the application process because they do not have an address.

These survivors can now have applications sent to the foundation, and Friendship Centre staff will serve as a middleman to help survivors navigate the claims process.

She added the Friendship Centre will also work to help fill out applications, because the lengthy document can be intimidating for survivors. Huntinghawk said clients need help navigating these systems that can often put an end to someone’s healing journey before they even take their first step.

The goal is to build the program and tailor the supports to survivors based on their needs and ensure it operates in a good way.

“We’re just learning, too. We’re going to try and do our best, and gather information from the people that come to understand what they are wanting, what they are needing, what are they hoping to find out,” Tacan said. “We need to know those questions, so we can ask those questions on behalf of the people.”

The Friendship Centre will host a ’60s Scoop information session dubbed “Healing the Family Within” at the Mahkaday Ginew Memorial Centre at 205 College Ave. on Jan. 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The session will cover topics including the history of the ’60s Scoop, the effects on individuals, families and kinship ties, discussions on healing programs and resources and information on the ’60s Scoop claims process. Guest speaker and ’60s Scoop survivor Marlene Oregon will also provide a presentation.

Tacan added the title, “Healing the Family Within,” was chosen with a specific purpose.

“We all carry a family within us. It doesn’t matter who we are; we all have a family inside of us that we think about as ’60s Scoop survivors. We have that in our minds, that we’re going to get back together and we’re going to be a family,” Tacan said. “But when it happens, that’s not always the case. It’s not this romantic idea that we have in our minds — we have to heal that inside of us.”

Seating for the “Healing the Family Within” is limited and registration in advance is required. Contact the Brandon Friendship Centre at 204-727-1407 for more details.

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