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Friday, January 21, 2022

FILM: This is Not A Ceremony

 Sundance Film Festival: This Is Not a Ceremony is having its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival (January 20–30, 2022).

‘This Is Not A Ceremony’
Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon)

Canadian Ahnahktsipiitaa, also known as Colin Van Loon, is Blackfoot and Dutch, hailing from The Piikani Nation.

His cinematic virtual reality production, “This is Not A Ceremony,” part of the Sundance New Frontier program, is described as “darkly humorous and occasionally caustic,” telling the story of Adam North Peigan, Robert Sinclair and others, and the struggles and conflicts of growing up as an Indigenous man, according to the Sundance website.

Van Loon is the lead artist, and the production included key collaborators Olivier Leroux, James Monkman and Jessica Dymond.

He grew up with his mother in Lethbridge and other southern Alberta towns in Canada.

“I really love our people, and when I say ‘our’ I mean Piikani and Niitsitapi as a whole,” he told Indian Country Today. “I am Blackfoot/Niitsitapi as well as Dutch. I am very Blackfoot-centric but try to remain inclusive to other nations and their ways. I wanted everyone to feel they were represented fairly.”

The virtual reality production, "This is Not a Ceremony," by lead artist Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), is an official selection of the New Frontier Program at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

He was raised by his mother and grandmother, Edith North Peigan, whose name later became Van Loon.

“Edith was very much a victim of disenfranchisement, even though her husband, my grandfather Buddy Van Loon, was also Blackfoot through his mother, and our Kainai relations, the Holloway family,” he said.

Van Loon said nonetheless they remained close to their kin in the North Peigan family.

“When I was a younger man I was very close with Jimmy Small Legs, a cousin to Edith and me," he said. “Jim was able to show me a great deal of our Piikani traditions. This had major impacts on me growing up and it often shows up in my work. Jimmy and his wife Joanne adopted me in our Niitsitapi tradition, so I also refer to Jim as my grandfather and Joanne as my grandmother, as is common practice within The Blackfoot confederacy Piikani, Siksika and Kainai and Aamskapi Pikuni.”

The importance of family is evident in his work, he said.

Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), Blackfoot and Dutch, is lead artist of the cinematic virtual reality production, "This is Not a Ceremony," an official selection of the New Frontier section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Luis Alvarez, courtesy of Sundance Institute)

“Family, kinship and reciprocity are values that show up in my work,” he said. “Adam North Peigan is my relation, and I wanted to showcase his story, as these moments are clear examples of systematic racism in Canada, and it’s an important story to tell in the framework of reconciliation.”

He continued, “There can be no reconciliation without truth, and both stories, Robert Sinclair and Brian Sinclair’s, and Adam North Peigan’s, are part of this. Additionally, Adam is a political advocate, working for our people and Survivors within the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta and the Legacy of Hope Foundation. I wanted to support him and his work in some small way.”

He wants the audience to leave with a sense of the impact of the virtual reality storytelling experience.

“I wanted both Indigenous and settler audiences to see the strength and resilience of Adam North Peigan and Robert Sinclair,” he said. “For White settlers specifically, I hope it affects them and they feel compelled to bear witness and try to make changes within the national community of Canada, to do something about systemic racism and discrimination.

“Virtual reality (VR) brings the audience closer to the storytellers,” he said. “hey can see them up close, hear what they have to say, and feel it not only in their minds, but viscerally and in their hearts as well. I want settler audiences to feel uncomfortable, and I want them to take that discomfort and think about it and act on it. I hope this connection makes audiences feel more compelled to uphold their responsibility as a witness.”

He continued, “I am hoping that Indigenous audiences will see the incredible strength, dedication and tenacity of Adam North Peigan and Robert Sinclair, with their continued efforts.”

Van Loon is the operations manager for the Indigenous Matriarchs 4 AR/VR media lab (IM4-Lab), and he sits on the Telefilm Indigenous Working Group, among others. He works to elevate the voices and stories of Indigenous peoples in his community by creating spaces for youth works in the Talking Stick’s Festivals REEL Reservation: Indigenous Cinematic Indigenous Sovereignty Series, or through his company, Blackfoot Nation Films.

Sundance Institute Meet the Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon)

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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

New Mexico needs to act to protect Native children #ICWA


As governor of Tesuque Pueblo, I know firsthand how vitally important it is to keep Native children in Native communities.

For generations, federal policies aimed at the erasure of Native culture focused on forcibly separating our children from their families and communities. These horrendous policies effectively disrupted the continuity of our Native culture by severing our connection to coming generations.

Despite these attacks, our communities have resisted and fought to protect our children through the centuries; we are still here. This year we are hopeful the New Mexico Legislature will protect Native families and communities and correct these historic injustices by creating a New Mexico state Indian Child Welfare Act.

After years of advocacy, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was signed into law in 1978. The federal law was a response to the alarming rates of removal of Indian children from their communities. This act put into law minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and placement in foster or adoptive homes outside their communities. These standards include a requirement for the child welfare system to engage with the child’s tribe, identify potential family or community foster care when necessary, and provide active efforts toward the child’s reunification with their parents or caretakers.

Through the years, federal law has ensured thousands of Native children could remain in their communities, surrounded by extended family and brought up in their own traditional culture. This law provides added protections against systems-level abuses directed at Indian children and puts an emphasis on placement with relatives or tribal community members.

But despite the protections the federal law has provided, New Mexico’s tribal nations still have some of the highest numbers of children and families impacted by the child welfare system. In addition, legal challenges to the federal law threaten the safety and well-being of Native families by undermining tribal sovereignty and the right to self-determination.

Responding to these challenges, representatives from all 23 tribal nations of the state, tribal ICWA workers, tribal-serving nonprofits, the Children, Youth and Families Department, and other advocates and stakeholders have worked for over two years to craft New Mexico state Indian Child Welfare Act policy. The result of this work is legislation that will provide lasting protection for our tribal nations and our children. Moreover, it will stand as an example of how New Mexico is dismantling systemic injustice by centering our Native children, family and communities first.

The goal of state ICWA policy is to ensure that we have legal protections at the state level regardless of what happens at the federal level and at the same time exceed the minimum standards established in 1978. We can take this opportunity to improve on those minimal standards by enacting best practices for Native families in ways that are unique to our state. We know that when we elevate the most vulnerable populations, we elevate the level of services for everyone involved in the system. By working across government systems, we can pave the way for our families to be healthy and whole.

As we head into the new year, I call on the Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to advance this policy and correct the historical injustices against our children and Indigenous communities.

Our children are precious, and we must do everything possible to keep them in our communities surrounded by Indigenous culture and language. Together, we can build a lasting legacy that uplifts our children and ensures they will grow up to be our future ancestors.

Robert A. Mora Sr. is the governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Meet Indigenous podcasters who are decolonizing the airwaves

CBC Radio ·

On Unreserved, Indigenous people are decolonizing our podcast feeds with four great projects. Host Falen Johnson's dog, Reg, enjoys each one equally. (Falen Johnson/CBC, podcast covers submitted)

More and more Indigenous creatives are turning to podcasting as a way to share stories. On Unreserved, we're talking with Indigenous podcasters who are decolonizing the airwaves. 

In 2021, former CBC host, Waubgeshig Rice, sent out a tweet.  It read, "So...who'd be interested in a podcast about Indigenous literature?"  That tweet got more than 8,000 likes, and was enough to support the creation of the Storykeepers Podcast.  The podcast, launched in March in 2021, is hosted by Waubgeshig Rice and writer Jennifer David and is all about Indigenous literature.

Connie Walker was on CBC's airwaves for more than 20 years. Her most recent work focused on telling the stories of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. Her latest podcast, Stolen: The Search for Jermain, is available through Gimlet Media. 

Glenn Wheeler, a member of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation, serves as host for the podcast called Mi'kmaq Matters. The podcast was Wheeler's way of keeping in touch with his community despite living in Toronto.

Dene Talk is a brand-new podcast from Cassidy Villebrun-Buracas, who describes it as Indigenous people talking about a wide range of topics. Guests have included writers and burlesque dancers, to psychologists and birth workers.

Career in journalism helps ’60s Scoop survivor reconnect with culture


As a child of the ’60s Scoop who was beginning to re-discover her birth family, Betty Ann Adam thought journalism was a good profession to pursue. Adam, who was raised in a non-Indigenous home, was looking to discover who she was as an Indigenous person and learn more about Indigenous people.

But, Adam didn’t just want to be the “Indigenous reporter” in the newsroom, despite being the only Indigenous person reporting for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix at the time.

“I felt a bit like they wanted to assign me to the Indigenous stories and I didn’t feel ready to do that at that point,” says Adam on the latest episode of Face to Face. “I hadn’t trained as a journalist. I had done some work and they saw some potential, so they gave me that opportunity.

“But, I didn’t feel comfortable doing Indigenous stories, exclusively, because I just felt at a disadvantage and I sometimes felt as though Indigenous people that I interviewed expected me to understand them, more than I did at that time.”

In 1989, Indigenous representation in newsrooms in Canada was pretty sparse says Adam who felt she didn’t have a lot of power to influence the way stories about Indigenous Peoples were being told.

Adam says she noticed things beginning to change following the criticism newsrooms received over coverage of the crimes of Saskatoon serial killer, John Crawford.

That criticism was documented in Warren Goulding’s 2001 book, Just Another Indian: A Serial Killer and Canada’s Indifference.

Adam worked at the Star Phoenix for three decades covering a range of issues.

Many big stories stick with her including the Neil Stonechild inquest, the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement framework agreement, the so-called Spiritwood Incident where two RCMP officers were shot and killed by Curtis Dagenais, and the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard.

Adam broke the story on the practice of coerced sterilization of Indigenous women without free and informed consent. The practice is now the focus of a class-action lawsuit.

Despite stepping away from the daily news grind, Adam has not slowed down. She has taken on the role of associate editor with Eagle Feather News.

Adam, who is a member of Fond Du Lac Denesuline First Nation, is also working on the latest season of Connie Walker’s podcast, Stolen.

Adam is also the chair of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan that recently released Everything is Connected, a documentary that highlights how intergenerational trauma and the separation of Indigenous children from their families are connected to the issue Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“It starts with the residential schools and that was often leading to former students whose children got scooped. And then those same families would have people who were dying in this terrible scourge of MMIW. And we thought it was important for Canadians to understand that these things don’t happen in silos,” says Adam.

“All of the negative issues that face Indigenous people can be linked to government policy.”

Everything is Connected is not the first documentary Adam has worked on. Filmmaker Tasha Hubbard’s 2016 film, Birth of a Family documents Adam and her birth siblings, meeting together for the very first time.

“Birth of a Family was a great experience. When I see it, it’s like seeing the best ever family holiday album that you ever saw but it was our family being together for the first time. And in fact, this past Christmas, my sister Rose came to Saskatoon and it was the first Christmas in any of our lives where two of us at least ever got to be together for Christmas and she stayed through New Years.

“You know, Sixties Scoop people are surviving and thriving and we’re trying to find our way back to family and community. And there are stories of happiness, joy and hope too.”

Monday, January 17, 2022

Coming Up: Supreme Court ICWA cases


There are also four cases challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Congress passed ICWA to respond to concerns that state child-welfare practices were causing large numbers of Native American children to be inappropriately removed from their families and tribes and placed with non-Native foster families or adoptive parents. ICWA established minimum federal standards for most child-custody proceedings involving Native American children. The en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit struck down some provisions of ICWA as unconstitutional. According to the 5th Circuit, some provisions violate the 10th Amendment because they impermissibly “commandeer” the states. Those provisions, it concluded, include a requirement that state agencies bear the cost and burden of providing expert testimony to support placing Native children in foster care, a requirement that state agencies provide remedial services to Native families, and a requirement that state agencies maintain certain child-placement records.

The 5th Circuit also affirmed the district court’s judgment that ICWA’s preference for adoptive placement with “other Indian families” and “Indian foster home[s]” violates the equal-protection component of the Fifth Amendment. The 5th Circuit upheld other provisions of the act. The court has relisted a total of four petitions, two filed by the federal government and a group of Native American tribes seeking to revisit 5th Circuit holdings invalidating provisions, and two filed by the state of Texas and private challengers seeking to overturn parts of the 5th Circuit decision upholding other ICWA provisions. The petitions are Haaland v. Brackeen, 21-376, Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, 21-377, Texas v. Haaland, 21-378, and Brackeen v. Haaland, 21-380.

What does blood have to do with identity? Kendra Mylnechuk, an adult Indigenous adoptee, born in 1980 at the cusp of the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act, is on a journey to reconnect with her birth family and discover her Lummi heritage.

Renewed Debate over U.S. Indian boarding schools


Oney M. Roubedeaux

As tribes wait for investigation to conclude, debate over Indian schools continues

Tribes across the Southwest dread the possibility that thousands of unmarked graves might be uncovered by a federal investigation into abandoned Native American boarding schools expected to wrap up early this year.

The investigation, ordered by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, came in the wake of the discovery this year of more than 1,200 unmarked graves at two long-shuttered boarding schools in Canada’s British Columbia and Saskatchewan provinces.

The probe also has renewed debate over Indian boarding schools, which were established in the 19th and 20th centuries with the primary objective of assimilating Indigenous youth into white culture by denying the use of their languages, dress and other cultural aspects.

Most boarding schools were closed in the 1980s and early 1990s, but dozens of schools remain open, with 15 still boarding students as of 2020, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Some are controlled by local tribes, while others are operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, a division of the Department of the Interior.

Boarding school alumni are widespread among Indigenous communities, and their thoughts about their experiences vary widely.

“She’s brought awareness for our Native people, for our children,” retired elementary school teacher Oney M. Roubedeaux said of Haaland. “I feel like that is opening up a box of worms. I mean, just a whole big old span of our people that nobody paid attention to.”

Roubedeaux, who is Ponca and Otoe-Missouria, was 6 in 1971, when she rode a Greyhound bus from Stillwater, Oklahoma, to Concho Indian Boarding School in El Reno with her brother, who was 8. She is the youngest of 17 siblings, many of whom attended boarding schools.

After her mother’s death in 1973, Roubedeaux was separated from her brother when she transferred from Concho to the Seneca Boarding School.

She said one of her other brothers was beaten to death in his room in Chilocco Indian School, 20 miles north of Ponca City, in 1980, the year it closed down. By the time she left Concho, there had been three student deaths, one being her best friend’s brother.

After her mother’s death, Roubedeaux was placed in foster care.

She went through 10 foster homes before one foster mother realized Roubedeaux – who was 16 – could not read or write. The teachers at the public and boarding schools she attended had never taken the time to teach her, Roubedeaux said.

She caught up, she said, with help from her foster mother, and eventually obtained a degree in special education from the University of Central Oklahoma. Roubedeaux, who lives in Pawnee, concluded her 20-year teaching career in March 2020.

Although “not everything was good,” she said, boarding schools gave her self-reliance, which was her biggest reclamation of agency.

“Boarding schools were a learning experience for me as a young child … it took me through life, to be able to rely on myself,” Roubedeaux said. “To this day, at the age of 57, I can still do that.”

According to the Boarding School Healing Coalition, 367 Indian boarding schools operated in 29 states, from Alabama to Alaska. Seventy-three were operating in 2020, and 15 of them still boarded students. Oklahoma had the most, with 83 schools, some of which still are operating. Arizona was second with 51 schools, 25 of which are open and three of which board students; New Mexico was fourth with 26 boarding schools.

Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, organized in 1871, is the oldest of four federally operated boarding schools in the nation.

Today’s boarding schools are a good thing, said Constance Fox, who is Cheyenne and Arapaho and graduated high school from Riverside in 1984.

“I think they’re a good thing because of the uniqueness Native students have,” said Fox, who’s a self-determination adviser for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Oklahoma. “For many, it was all they had, good and bad. I hope they continue. I know there’s been a lot of positive strides made … I go back to Riverside and it’s a whole different place.”

Fox said Riverside has upgraded its buildings and athletics department over the years. When she attended Riverside, Fox said, no advanced courses were offered, but teachers now are recruited for such courses.

“I have friends that have kids and grandkids that go to boarding schools and it’s because they want to … because there is still discrimination in public schools,” Fox said. “Being around their Native people makes them want to do better and want to succeed. So, I think that’s a dynamic that has changed over the years.”

Fox attended Concho from grades 3 through 8 and graduated from Riverside as valedictorian. She holds a bachelor’s degree in tourism management from Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma.

Fox, who lives in Yukon, has worked for the BIA for nearly three decades, mostly in the area of self-determination.

Fox said boarding schools – specifically the adults who worked at them, who she says practically raised her – helped shape her passion for self-determination and her career working to better tribes.

“What at the time was negative to me ended up really being positive,” Fox said. “I learned so much about self-responsibility, and that came from the dorm parents, teachers, and other people who worked at both Concho and Riverside.”

Fox said she fully supports Haaland’s efforts and thinks her investigation shows goodwill to create an understanding of the traumas her ancestors suffered and the impact it has in 2022. Although closure can’t begin without acknowledging the history, she said it is hopeful to begin the healing process for the families and tribes impacted.

Hopi journalist Patty Talahongva got her start in journalism at Phoenix Indian High School in the 1978-79 school year. She is the executive producer of newscasts by Indian Country Today, a national nonprofit digital news publication focusing on Indigenous issues.

Although Talahongva, who lives in Phoenix, knows about the brutal history of her grandparents’ boarding school experiences, her year at Phoenix Indian School was different.

“People want to cling to this idea that it was always, always bad,” Talahongva said. “I would say there’s always good in whatever story, no matter how bad it got.”

By the time she was in school, Talahongva said, children were allowed to speak their languages freely, and cultural customs were celebrated, not suppressed. The overall experience, she said, made her more independent. The school, which opened in 1891, shut down in 1990.

Even the launch of Indian Country Today’s newscast in April 2020 has roots in boarding schools.

Talahongva said the newscast began a month after the pandemic was declared, so studio options were few. The solution? The former grammar building of Phoenix Indian School, built in 1935 and now used as a visitors center. Indian Country Today used it for seven months before moving into a studio at Arizona PBS.

“Those kids who went to school in that building were never encouraged to go to college, get a degree, or do whatever they wanted to do,” Talahongva said. “They were certainly never encouraged to become (television) anchors and producers. I can hear our relatives laughing. It’s like, ‘Take that, government. We’re using the building you put up to hold us down, and we’re broadcasting to the world.’”

This story was originally published by Gaylord News, a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Nancy Marie Spears, a Gaylord News reporter based in Washington, D.C., is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Cronkite News contributed to this story.

Alberta not included in ‘Sixties Scoop’ Healing Foundation inaugural grant funding


The Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA) feels it was left out when it comes to accessing new funding.

In December 2021, the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation announced eight Indigenous organizations will get just over $1 million in funding under the foundation’s 2021 Pilot Grant Program.

The SSISA, however, was not one of them.

“We’re talking about thousands of people in Alberta shut out of a process that nobody was aware of,” said Sandra Relling, president of the SSISA.

“We thought that perhaps it might be upcoming, so we were waiting for some sort of feedback either on their website or through the emails we sent to the organization looking for information on the process.”

Read more: Indigenous organizations call for national inquiry into ’60s Scoop

Records Could Shed Light on Canada Residential Schools for Indigenous Children, Settlements


Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in 2015 that it had identified about 3,200 deaths of indigenous children at the school... 


Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister discusses deals to settle child welfare claims

The federal government, First Nations organizations and class-action lawyers announced details of two agreements in principle that, if ratified, could end a nearly 15-year-old legal battle over the racist underfunding of child welfare services on reserves and in the Yukon. Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu joins APTN National News to talk about the deal. 



Largest settlement in Canadian history: Feds release details of $40B deal



The federal government has unveiled its $40-billion agreement in principle to provide compensation to First Nations children and their families harmed by an underfunded child welfare system and establish long-term reform.

As a result of the largest class action lawsuit in Canadian history, Ottawa will provide $20 billion to children on reserve and in the Yukon who were unnecessarily removed from their homes between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022. This extends to their parents and caregivers. Compensation will also be provided to those impacted by the narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle between Dec. 12, 2007 and Nov. 2, 2017.

Children who didn’t receive essential public services between April 1, 1991 and Dec. 11, 2007 will also be eligible for financial reparation.

The second half of the funding will go towards reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services Program, to be spread out over five years.

Approximately $20 billion will support young First Nations adults transitioning out of the child welfare system, as well as bolster prevention mechanisms to keep children at home, in their communities – work that’s expected to start in April, 2022.



Indigenous child welfare settlement leaves out Sixties Scoop survivors: advocate

Reaction to $40B settlement not all positive
A settlement that may become the largest ever in the history of Canada is raising concern among some over the specific date of April 1, 1991 being the cut-off point for Indigenous people to be eligible for compensation. Mark Neufeld reports.

By Mark Neufeld


  • Ottawa secured agreements in principle to compensate First Nations children harmed by its underfunding of child welfare
  • If the $40 billion agreement is approved, it would represent the largest settlement in Canadian history
  • But an advocate says the cut-off dates for the potential settlement excludes Sixties Scoop survivors

While welcoming an agreement in principle to compensate children harmed by Canada’s underfunding of child welfare, an Indigenous organization says it also excludes many Indigenous people – specifically Sixties Scoop survivors.

The federal Liberal government says of the $40 billion earmarked to be spent on the matter, $20 billion will pay for compensation and the other $20 billion will be spent on reforming the system over five years.

It says First Nations children living on reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991, and Mar. 21, 2022, are set to be compensated, along with their parents and caregivers.

If the agreement is approved, it would represent the largest settlement in Canadian history.

But not everyone agrees with the cut-off dates for the potential settlement.

“I feel like they could have expanded it a little bit more to include those of us taken before 1991 and those of us taken off reserve,” said Katherine Legrange, the director of 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada.

“I think overall it’s a good thing, I just wish they had consulted with Sixties Scoop survivors and our families to include us if possible.”


The Sixties Scoop is when an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in non-Indigenous homes over a period of about three decades.

The Canadian government maintained it was acting in the best interests of the children.

Some survivors remain displaced and disconnected from families and their home communities to this day.

For First Nations children and families that are included in the settlement, Legrange cautions there could be a reopening of old wounds and relived traumas over the historical harms done to them.

She believes the guidance of First Nations elders and caregivers will be needed to prevent more pain as people come forward in the settlement.

“We need to, as Indigenous people, need to lead what that looks like,” said Legrange. “Have an advisory committee and figure out what’s the best way. How do we do this while mitigating the risks and harm to people?”


“I’m no longer a lost child. My story matters. That’s what I’m taking home: I matter.”


Burden of proof

After the residential school in Nova Scotia closed in the late ‘60s, Debbie Paul was kidnapped by a nun and brought to a white family in the U.S. She always told people this, but was missing the evidence. Until now.

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Standing at the site of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia, Debbie Paul clutches a black and white picture of herself taken when it shut down in June 1967.

Paul was the last Mi’kmaw student to leave.

“This picture was taken to give to my mother and my mother never received it,” said Paul, who lives in the Sipekne’katik First Nation, just five kilometres away from the former residential school.

In the photo, she is 12 years old, wearing new shoes and a new watch, unaware her life was about to take an incredible turn. Rather than return Paul to her mother, a nun with the Sisters of Charity – Halifax took her without consent to live with a white family in the United States.

When Paul pushed for answers years later, her mother said she just never came home when the school closed. “She signed no papers for me to be adopted out or taken across the United States border,” said Paul.

Debbie Paul, age 12, outside the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School on the day it closed in June 1967. (Submitted by Debbie Paul)

After the residential school closed and the rest of the students left, that nun, Sister Mary Gilberta, kept Paul back at the institution. Paul says she told her to keep out of sight. Within days, they left for the airport.

Paul would spend the next year with Sister Gilberta’s brother, John Wentworth, and his wife, Mary, in Massachusetts.

“They took me without permission,” said Paul. “And all that family did was abuse me.”

Debbie Paul survived the residential school only to become part of the Sixties Scoop, the practice of adopting or fostering Indigenous kids to white families.

Canada signed a class-action settlement agreement in 2017 and within a year, survivors of the Sixties Scoop, like Paul, were able to apply for compensation.

“I think I deserve it, to live the end of my life,” said Paul, who is now 66. “Because I went through hell.”

But in March 2020, her claim was rejected. She wasn’t told why, but she has a strong suspicion. Collectiva, the administrator for the Sixties Scoop class action settlement, can access adoption and foster records, which for the most part are held by the provinces. But Sister Gilberta acted on her own, leaving no apparent paper trail.



Saturday, January 15, 2022

The 1950s plan to erase Indian Country

 Yes, this happened...

APM Reports: “Uprooted: The 1950s plan to erase Indian Country”

A really interesting look at the BIA Urban Relocation project.

BIA pamphlet from the Chicago Relocation Office. Edward E. Ayer Collection at Newberry Library.

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women in the United States #StolenSisters

Violence is the third leading cause of death for native women between 10 and 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for women 25 to 34 years (Simpson 5). Today American Indian women face murder 10 times the national average according to the Department of Justice. The government has failed to address the violence against Native women despite staggering statistics that provide evidence for the high rates of violence perpetrated against this marginalized group (Simpson 5). In 2015, the federal government approved an act that would provide additional resources to improve tribes’ access to databases that had data of MMIW but have not followed through. In response to the lack of a database that includes all the MMIW, I have created a web map that will visualize the Indigenous women that have been reported missing and murdered. The ultimate goal is to try to understand what is unique about the situation that causes Native American women to experience higher rates of violence. In the future I hope to be able to provide statistical analysis for my theory about the relation between map camps and missing women.

Keep Reading 

The MMIWG2 Database logs cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people, from 1900 to the present.

There are many lists and sources of information online, but no central database that is routinely updated, spans beyond colonial borders, and thoroughly logs important aspects of the data, and overall, there is a chronic lack of data on this violence. The Database works to address that need, by maintaining a comprehensive resource to support community members, advocates, activists, and researchers in their work towards justice for our stolen sisters.

 The Database originally included cases from the US and Canada, but starting in 2019, we have expanded its reach to include all Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people. We will continue to pursue archival research in the US and Canada, and will rely on partnerships with Indigenous women’s collectives and organizations in other regions to include our sisters indigenous to lands occupied by other colonial entities.

The kind of information the Database cares for is determined by ongoing consultation with Indigenous communities. The Database currently logs the following:

​About Victims:

Name, Indigenous name and translation, tribal affiliation(s), birth date, age, if they were a mother, if they have other MMIWG2 cases in their family

​About Perpetrators:

Race, gender, relationship to the victim

​About the Violence:

Missing or murdered, incident date, violence perpetrated against murder victims after they are deceased, relevant issues (domestic violence, sexual assault, sex work/sex trafficking, foster care, police brutality, trans victim, death in custody, unsheltered, residential/boarding school)

​About Police & Court Response:

Reward amount (if any), case classification, conviction status, which entities located deceased individuals

​About Geography:

City, state/province, country, location type (tribal land, rural, urban)


Friday, January 7, 2022

Canada does it first, is America next?

I don't know about you but I saw this coming - that the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) in Canada would end with money paid to victims. Canada is first. Will America be next? Or Australia?... Blog Editor TLH

In Largest Settlement in its History, Canada Comes to Agreement in Principle in Child Welfare Lawsuit

NY Times Coverage here

The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it had reached what it called the largest settlement in Canada’s history, paying $31.5 billion to fix the nation’s discriminatory child welfare system and compensate the Indigenous people harmed by it.

Agreement in principle/press release here

For those who were following this case, it involves the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which is led by Cindy Blackstock. The settlement attempts to reform Child and Family Services and address Jordan’s Principle. This is a major settlement and significant milestone for Native children and families in Canada.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Another class action for Indigenous children off reserve #EveryChildMatters


This proposed class action alleges that Canada failed to take reasonable steps to protect and preserve the aboriginal identity of the Indigenous children and youth who were apprehended. Canada denied Indigenous children and youth any reasonable opportunity to maintain connections to the language and territory of the Indigenous community, group or people to which they belonged. Canada’s actions also denied Indigenous peoples’ their inherent right to jurisdiction over child and family services. This lawsuit alleges that Canada should have taken steps to safeguard the wellbeing of apprehended Indigenous youth and children and ensure that Indigenous youth and children, and their families, were advised of any federal financial benefits to which they may have been entitled; this lawsuit alleges that Canada failed to do so. 

This conduct was systemic, lasted for decades, and eradicated the language, culture, and heritage of Metis, Inuit, and Status and Non-Status Indian (First Nations) children and youth in care. The parents and grandparents of apprehended children and youth were also harmed; in my cases, these parents and grandparents never saw their children and grandchildren again.


Sunday, January 2, 2022

'I had to be prayed home'

Thousands of Native children were adopted in the 1960s as a government plan of forced assimilation. This woman was one of them.

Kelley Bashew was adopted at the age of 3 months and taken from South Dakota to Glenside. She is shown on a hillside near her Meadowbrook home in April 2021.CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

While visiting the Tekakwitha Nursing Home to sing for residents, 13-year-old Denise Owen was led away from the rest of her boarding school group by a nun. A special surprise awaited her.

There, in another room in the Sisseton, S.D., facility, was her newborn sister, Rose Anne. Denise got only a glimpse of the infant, lying in a bassinet in a long-sleeve shirt and a diaper, before another nun ordered her to leave. Denise was not supposed to see her sibling, soon to be adopted.

It would be 50 years before they saw each other again.

Rose Anne, who would be raised by a Glenside dentist and his wife, became a child of the country’s American Indian adoption era, a decades-long forced assimilation of Native children first established under the Indian Adoption Project, which started in 1958 and evolved to include 50 private and public placement agencies across the United States and Canada, where the so-called Sixties Scoop was coined to describe the mass removal of children from Native homes. During the next 20 years, almost 13,000 Native children would be adopted.

Bashew experienced a loving childhood. But she always knew she was different, and felt isolated in white suburbia. Here, a series of photos from those times.CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

According to a 1969 report by the Association on American Indian Affairs, between 25% and 35% of all Native children were placed in adoptive homes, foster homes, or institutions; and about 90% of those children were being raised by non-Natives.

That was the case for Rose Anne, who, at the age of 3 months, was handed over to Salvatore and André Petrilli. The white couple of Italian and Irish descent had struggled to have their own biological children, and it was André's interest in American history and a phone conversation with a priest from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, S.D., that led her to seek a Native adoption through Catholic Charities.

Eventually, a new birth certificate reflected the new name of Kelley Elizabeth Petrilli, the child of two Caucasian parents. Her American Indian heritage was wiped away on paper. A Montgomery County Orphans Court clerk with the last name of Custer gave the final stamp of approval to the adoption.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be white. I still feel guilt about that,” said Bashew, who lives in Meadowbrook. “I just wanted to fit in and be like my sisters. … I did not like being tall and brown and different.”

Kelley Bashew was born Rose Anne Owen in Sisseton, S.D., but was adopted by Salvatore and André Petrilli, a suburban Philadelphia dentist and his wife.CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

 PLEASE SHARE THIS POST with other American Indian Adoptees... TLH


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You are not alone

You are not alone

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Diane Tells His Name

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60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

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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