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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

#60sScoop - How did he end up in Connecticut?


CT man taken from First Nation family as child finds purpose in sharing story: ‘I’m not the only one’

WILTON,  CONNECTICUT — Ripped from his sister’s arms and taken to a new country over a half-century ago, Canada native Taber Gregory said he’s still reconciling with how and why he wound up in Wilton.

About 20 years ago, the longtime Wiltonian and owner of Gregory’s Sawmill on Pimpewaug Road said he learned he was one of thousands of survivors of what’s known as the Sixties Scoop.

The Sixties Scoop refers to a decades-long period in Canadian history, from about 1951 and until as late as the 1990s, marked by the mass removal of Aboriginal children from their homes — in most cases without the consent of their families — into the child welfare system.

Many of the children were placed in non-Indigenous households in Canada, while others — including Taber Gregory, who was born Henry Desjarlais in the Canadian province of Alberta in 1968 — were relocated and adopted out to families outside the country. 

Gregory, now 55, said he always knew he was adopted but didn’t know about the early years of his life until connecting with biological family members in his early- to mid-30s.

“I started getting some random calls saying somebody wanted to talk to me, and the person claimed he was my father,” Gregory said. “I was a little confused and didn’t accept the phone call because I didn’t know what to think about it.”

The calls kept coming, and Gregory said he kept refusing. 

Then one day, he finally accepted and learned that the person calling was, in fact, his biological father, Louis Desjarlais. Gregory said his biological father has since died, but he has stayed in touch with one of his biological siblings in Canada.

Through telephone conversations, Gregory said he learned he was the youngest of seven children and had been taken from his family’s home in Canada when he was about one-and-a-half years old. He said his adopted parents had been unaware that he had been forcibly removed from his biological family. 

“My sister walked me through everything, and it kind of snowballed from there,” he said.

Gregory showed Hearst Connecticut Media an August 2001 letter from the Cold Lake First Nations, verifying his Cold Lake First Nation Registry List membership and identifying his biological parents, as well as their own membership. The letter said that since his biological parents were “of 100% North American Indian Blood Quantum,” Gregory “has at least a 100% North American Indian Blood Quantum” himself.

One of Gregory’s four biological sisters, Alicia Minoose, claimed to have been holding him when social service workers came into the house, took him out of her arms, put him in a vehicle and left.

“She told me she ran out the door, chasing after me, and that was the last time she ever saw me,” Gregory said. “She was the last one to hold me.”

According to Tony Merchant — a Canadian attorney whose law firm was involved in a Sixties Scoop survivors class-action lawsuit several years ago that Gregory benefited from — government-funded social services agencies involved in the removal of Indigenous children from their homes were not closely supervised and “intensified their search for likely candidates/victims for adoption” over time. 

“Grabbing children became a need-for-supply phenomenon, and this was particularly true for boys,” he said, noting that they were “significantly more popular for adoption than girls.”

According to Gregory’s sister, two of their siblings were taken as well. She said they were placed with foster parents and eventually brought home — but the family couldn’t find Gregory, whom she still refers to by his birth name of Henry.

“Somehow, mom found David and Margaret ... but they couldn’t find you,” she said over the phone during Gregory’s interview. “They didn’t know what happened to you. We were searching and searching, but there was no information.”

Gregory said he was told that his biological mother, Bella Desjarlais, “cried and cried” after he was taken and he believes stress and heartbreak from what happened may have contributed to her death — which he said occurred before he reconnected with his biological family.

Later learning what he and his family in Canada went through, Gregory said he “went into survival mode.”

“I went through some depression, but I was able to get help and kind of turn that around and stay motivated and positive,” he said. “I did have to take a step back and kind of digest everything.”

Adoption and life in Wilton

Wilton has been the only home he knows — or at least remembers. 

Gregory said he has no recollection of his time in the Canadian foster care system, traveling to the U.S. or when his name was changed from Henry to Taber — but he knows he ended up at an adoption agency in Pennsylvania. 

From there, Gregory said he was adopted by Steve and Judy Meier when he was around 3 years old, moved to Wilton and had two brothers — both of whom were also adopted, but from different places. One was born in Vietnam, and the other was born in Bridgeport, he said.

Gregory said his adoptive parents didn’t know he had been forcibly taken from his home.

“The Welcome House in Pennsylvania was like the first stop, and they just adopted me from there,” he said. “They had no idea how I got there, so I can’t blame them for anything like that. They had no idea what happened.”

According to the website of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation — the parent organization of Welcome House — the adoption program “matched more than 7,000 orphans and children from around the globe with adoptive families in the United States,” and was phased out in June 2014 “because of changes in international adoption regulations.”

Samantha Freis, a curator with the foundation, said the organization does not know what the adoption process was like during that period.

After his adoptive parents divorced, Gregory said his mother Judy Meier ended up working at Gregory’s Sawmill and meeting John Gregory. 

“They made a connection, and we ended up here with Mr. Gregory and kind of became a family,” he said. “We grew up on the Gregory farm (where) we had draft horses, oxen, pigs and chickens.”

After their adoptive mother died in 1985, Taber Gregory said he and his brothers stayed with John Gregory, whom he considered a father figure and legally changed his last name from Meier to Gregory at his request.

When John Gregory retired in the mid- to late-1990s and moved to Ohio, where he later died in 2006, Taber Gregory said he took over the sawmill business — which has been in the Gregory family since the 1850s — and has been keeping the family legacy alive ever since.

“I became a Gregory and have been continuing the family business,” he said.

Gregory said he never knew, nor suspected, that his separation from his biological family and subsequent adoption were forced — but he’s grateful to have learned the truth about his past, “survived the ordeal” and reconnect with his family in Canada, who he said he has not yet visited in person but hopes to see in the near future.

In the meantime, he said his sister keeps him informed about what’s going on with family members in Canada — many of whom Gregory said still reside on a First Nations reservation and speak Chipewyan. 

Class-action settlement 

Several years ago, the Canadian government reached an $800 million class-action agreement with Sixties Scoop survivors — $750 million of which was set aside for individual compensation — the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported in 2017.

The settlement, through which all First Nations and Inuit children who “were removed from their homes — and lost their cultural identities as a result — between 1951 and 1991 (were) entitled to compensation,” was less than the $1.3 billion sought on behalf of about 16,000 Indigenous children in Canada’s Ontario province, according to the CBC article.

The settlement agreement followed an Ontario Superior Court judge’s February 2017 ruling that the Canadian government not only “breached its ‘duty of care’ to the children and ignored the damaging effect” of the child welfare program, but also “breached part of the agreement that required consultation with First Nations” about it, the CBC reported.

The judge approved the distribution of $25,000 to $50,000 in payouts to about 22,000 Sixties Scoop survivors the following year as part of the settlement agreement, through which the Canadian government also agreed to establish a foundation designed to “enable change and reconciliation.”

According to a class-action claims process website set up for the settlement, 21,208 of the 34,816 claims received by the December 2019 late claim deadline had been approved as of January 2024.

Gregory — who showed Hearst a questionnaire he filled out for Merchant Law Group LLP, one of the law firms involved in the class action — said his claim was among the ones approved.  He wouldn’t disclose the exact payout amount he received — saying only that it was over $10,000. 

“Everything I know is consistent with him being a (Sixties) Scoop survivor who received compensation,” Merchant said.

He said Gregory did not become a client “because obtaining compensation was something done directly with the claims service providers,” but said his firm did provide assistance to Gregory.

Gregory, who feels the Sixties Scoop settlement payout isn’t enough to compensate for the harm caused to those taken from their biological families, said he shares his story not for pity, but for purpose — to raise awareness about what he and thousands of other Indigenous children went through and help prevent something like it from ever happening again.

“I know I’m not the only one, and I don’t want anybody going through what I did,” he said.

SOURCE: https://www.newstimes.com/news/article/taber-gregory-wilton-sixties-scoop-canada-18672082.php

 

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Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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