Column: Stolen heritage: Indigenous people search for their heritage and identity
“Knowing your identity is important, it gives us hope, it gives us a future.” – Susan Levi Peters, former Elsipogtog First Nation Chief, spoke to Context about the importance of heritage and identity.
Who are you and where do you come from? Answering these two questions are key to understanding your own identity. For many Indigenous people, however, answering the second part to that question is not so easy.
What has come to be known as The Sixties Scoop was one of the events that stripped Indigenous children of their heritage. From the 1960s to 1980s approximately 20,000 first nations, Metis and Inuit children and babies across Canada were taken from their parents and placed into adoptive or foster care of Indigenous families. The horrendous event created a generation with forgotten family members and lost history. Residential schools were another recent and dark part of Canadian history which attempted to assimilate Indigenous children and destroy their culture.
Knowing your heritage is a basic human right. There are now programs available that aim to restore heritage for Indigenous people searching for their family. The programs use online documents and records to help Indigenous people find their story and heritage.
“I had to go out and learn my family tree so I can embrace my full heritage.” Susan goes on, “There are many lost souls who should be given an opportunity to find their family. Some were adopted out, some were taken to residential schools and did not return, some left home to go to school and lost contact.”
Stories passed down through generations are a wonderful tool to connect family members, land and history. It is crucial that Indigenous stories are acknowledged and shared.
Resources to learn more about Indigenous history.