The sixties scoop is a process that happened mainly in the 1960s to 1980s when indigenous children were forcibly removed or ‘scooped’ from their biological parents and original communities without the agreement of their families. These children were placed in mainstream non-indigenous Canadian homes and throughout North America. The original intention of the sixties scoop was to educate the indigenous children and to increase civilization among their communities. However, some of the affected people and the caring society claimed that this action was not because the government was genuinely concerned for the protection of the rights of indigenous children but due to an extension of discrimination practices against indigenous people and their communities (Hageman & Galoustian, 2020). The survivors of this event have claimed that it has adversely affected their relations with their biological family. This paper comprehensively analyzes the social and cultural impacts of the sixties scoop on indigenous communities and its continued effects on indigenous people today.
Cultural and Social Impacts on Indigenous Communities
The sixties scoop contributed to the loss of cultural identity by the children, which is referred to by BBC News (2021) as ‘cultural genocide.’ Children lost their names and connection to their heritage when taken to foster homes. They experienced abuse and discrimination and had no sense of well-being. Some victims could not handle the traumatic loss of their cultural identity and eventually committed suicide (Hanson, 2020). Survivors explained that they felt like their life was a lie because they did not know their identity until later. This took a toll, especially on mothers pressured to give up their children after birth.
The Indigenous communities have since experienced generational and generational trauma that has negatively impacted their social values, parenting skills, and future success. The trauma of parents who lost their children and those who were forcibly removed from their homes has been passed down to subsequent generations contributing to social challenges in the communities. Traumatic events endured by communities have negatively affected individual lives and their descendants’ future livesrmayer; et al. (2014) posit that this trauma can be passed down to the second and third generations resulting in mental health challenges.
Many indigenous communities were fragmented as a result of the sixties scoops. The fabric of the indigenous people was torn due to disempowerment leading to social fragmentation. There was the loss of future community leaders and a disintegration of family systems. Moreover, removing children led to the breakdown of family structures within the indigenous communities. The absence of children from the households resulted in a void that could not be quickly filled, severely affecting the functioning and dynamics of families. The status of social support networks improves the health of a given community. The removal of children severed the vital web of the social support network.
The removal of indigenous children severed knowledge transmission from one generation to another resulting in cultural disruption. Knowledge transmission is deeply rooted in oral traditions, ceremonies, storytelling, language, and land-based practices. Placing children in non-native homes limited the opportunities to learn and practice these traditions diminishing the cultural elements. Moreover, disconnection from ancestral lands broke their association with their communities’ ritual, historical, and cultural aspects, worsening the cultural disruption experienced by indigenous communities.
Continued Effects on Indigenous People Today
Indigenous children are still overrepresented in the child welfare system today. According to Baswan & Yenimlez (2023), indigenous children comprise about 4.1% of children under 15 and represent approximately 30% of foster children. Children are vastly overrepresented, with more than half of children in care in British Columbia being indigenous. Moreover, indigenous children are six times more likely to be put in foster homes than non-indigenous children. Statistics Canada data from 2021 shows that 53.8% of children in foster care are indigenous. This number continues to increase yearly despite the challenges in collecting data on First Nations and other indigenous communities.
The sixties scoop survivors still have painful memories today that adversely affect their daily lives. These people still suffer emotional and physical trauma caused by separation from their families. There have been demonstrations and lawsuits asking for compensation from the victims. An interview with Angela Ashawasegai, one of the survivors, showed that she had difficulty fitting into her original family. She also explained that no one was there for her during graduation and wedding (CBC NEWS, 2016). A mother whose child was taken from her during the Scoop explained that the memory was too painful, and she had to cope with it y consuming alcohol. The experience also affected the siblings of the taken children.
The children removed from their indigenous communities significantly lost language and cultural knowledge. Although this argument has been difficult to prove in courts, many survivors claim to have adverse impacts on their social life. For example, one interviewee at a rally outside the Toronto courthouse explained that she felt overwhelmingly sad because she could not talk to her mother in her language. She also said she could not converse with her grandmother, who had significant cultural knowledge (CBC NEWS, 2016). Language is a critical aspect of any culture, and to gain cultural knowledge, one must have a significant understanding of knowledge.
The impacts of the Sixties Scoop combine with other socioeconomic challenges indigenous people face today. These issues include unemployment, poverty, educational disparities, and health inequalities. Society’s stereotypes about the indigenous people have increased their economic, political, and social marginalization. A study by Carneiro (2018) revealed that behavior patterns of non-native people towards the indigenous people prevented the latter from participating effectively in the economic opportunities potentially available to them. Moreover, the indigenous communities have a strong attachment to their ancestral lands, which reduces their ability to enjoy the benefits of the contemporary economy,
The Sixties Scoop is a historical event with the biggest impact on Indigenous people and communities. The forced removal of Indigenous children from their biological parents and communities led to cultural, psychological, and social impacts, which are still evident today and shape the lives of Indigenous people today. Disruption of the culture and community fragmentation has led to the loss of cultural identity, weakened social support networks, and the absence of future community leaders. The effects of the Sixties Scoop continue to affect Indigenous people today due to generational trauma, discrimination, and socioeconomic disparities. The Canadian government can contribute to creating a more equitable and diverse society by acknowledging the impacts of the sixties scoop. The citizen’s responsible for breaking systemic barriers and supporting indigenous people and communities.
Baswan, M, & Yenilmez, S. (2023). The Sixties Scoop — The Indigenous Foundation. Retrieved 19 May 2023, from https://www.theindigenousfoundation.org/articles/the-sixties-scoop
BBC News. (2021). Canada ‘Sixties Scoop’: Indigenous survivors map out their stories. Retrieved 19 May 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCxBRad2_3U
Carneiro, S. (2018). Policy, Poverty, and Indigenous Child Welfare: Revisiting the Sixties Scoop (Doctoral dissertation, Queen’s University (Canada)).
CBC News. (2023). ‘There is a sadness to me’: Sixties Scoop survivors recall painful memories. Retrieved 19 May 2023, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/sixties-scoop-supporters-1.3732037
Emily Hanson. (2020). The Sixties Scoop: A Loss of Culture and Identity –Retrieved 19 May 2023, from https://edusites.uregina.ca/emilyhanson/the-sixties-scoop-a-loss-of-culture-and-identity/
Hageman, A., & Galoustian, P. (2020). Economic Aspects of the Indigenous Experience in Canada. https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/economicaspectsi2ndedition/chapter/actions-of-the-first-nations-child-and-family-caring-society-case-study/
Kirmayer, L. J., Gone, J. P., & Moses, J. (2014). Rethinking historical trauma. Transcultural psychiatry, 51(3), 299-319.