Regina ’60s Scoop victims share their stories, part 2
The federal government announced Friday that they will be paying surviving people caught up in the ‘60s Scoop as children between $25,000 and $50,000 as part of a damages settlement worth up to $800 million.
For the roughly 20,000 affected individuals this was a day that was a long time coming.
Global News spoke with four Regina-based ‘60s Scoop survivors about their experience in the Scoop. Here is part two of those interviews.
When Kerry Bellegarde first heard about Ottawa’s decision to give up to $800 million to ‘60s Scoop survivors last Friday morning she said it was a very emotional experience.
“I have been waiting for this for many years, along with many others. I cried when I heard the news this morning; more from relief that it’s being acknowledged,” she said.
Bellegarde was around one when she was taken into foster care. She was then adopted a year-and-a-half later.
“It was hard growing up in a town where no one looked like me,” Bellegarde said.
This lead to Bellegarde perpetually feeling like an other in a town that was supposed to be her home.
The feeling of being labled as an other first began to set in for Bellegarde when she began kindergarten. This is when she first began to encounter racism.
“A lot of things like name calling, racial slurs, that I’m sure were taught by other people, their parents and just society in general,” she described.
These feelings began to enter her home life as well. Bellegarde described it as being very difficult to be compared to her adoptive siblings. She doesn’t have contact with them either
Bellegarde eventually left “that town” at the age of 15. During the interview Bellegarde never actually named the town.
“In the town I grew up in, there was a lot of people that referred to us as ‘those people’ when you’d drive by. You don’t want to be like ‘those people’. I always wondered, well am I not ‘those people?’” Bellegarde would ask herself.
“It was very difficult to leave some place that I had called home, but I left voluntarily. I left my family,” she said.
Bellegarde doesn’t have contact with her adoptive parents anymore. She said that they don’t phone each other and they are not a part of her children’s lives.
“I think it’s partially because of their religious beliefs, but I know in my heart it’s because I left the family home and I decided that I wasn’t a part of that, and that’s why I left,” she said.
“I have replaced my family with my biological family.”
Now, Bellegarde is focused on making sure her children have a healthier upbringing. A significant portion of that involves reconnecting with her lost cultural identity.
“It’s an ongoing process. I’ve recently, with my daughter, started beading. I’ve begun doing many things that take up my mind so I don’t reflect on the negative part,” she said.
“To me it’s more about the healing, the reconciliation and making sure this never happens again.”
As part of Ottawa’s $800 million announcement, around $50 million is going to be dedicated to programming for survivors to help reclaim their culture. Bellegarde is hopeful this will include language courses. She said everyone in her biological family spoke fluent Cree, and it’s something she hopes to bring back for her children and grandkids.
This healing work is beneficial for Bellegarde and her daughter to heal together. She was taken away from Bellegarde when she was younger by her father due to ongoing family issues.
“He felt that I wasn’t ready, and I wasn’t ready to take on a family,” Bellegarde said.
“The thing I wanted the most was to have my own family. I knew in my heart that’s what I wanted and I want my children to know that and I want my grandchildren to know that.”
Melinda Dobson was shocked when she first heard about Ottawa’s plan for ‘60s Scoop survivors from a family member.
“I was kind of amazed that they’re going to do something like that for people who’ve lost their heritage through adoption,” Dobson said.
Dobson is originally from Loon Lake, Sask., a small community 60 kilometres west of Meadow Lake, as the youngest of four siblings. She was adopted at the age of 18 months by a white family in Regina, where she also gained an older brother and younger brother.
One of her older brothers, Tommy, was also put up for adoption.
Unlike some other ‘60s Scoop kids, Dobson’s adopted parents did try to teach her about her First Nation’s culture by taking her to events like powwows.
“I’m very close to my mom, and my brothers are very busy with their lives,” she said. “I don’t really see [my brothers] very often, but I try my best to keep in touch with them.”
While she had a good, healthy upbringing, it wasn’t until Dobson was in her 20s that she was reunited with her biological family.
“My natural brother was passing away. I got the chance to meet my natural mother, she was taken before I even got to meet her,” Dobson explained.
As for the rest of her natural family, Dobson said they maintain contact but it is not a very close relationship. Her surviving brothers and sisters still live in Loon Lake. Dobson said distance is an issue.
Her brother and sister who still live on the reserve both speak fluent Cree.
“So it’s kind of a different situation,” Dobson said. “I’ve lost quite a bit. Like I’ve lost my parents, I’ve lost my heritage, I’ve lost my language. I guess you could say my complete history.”
“It does upset me, and I’m sorry to say it makes me angry that it actually had to come to that.”
Dobson said she only knows 20 words of Cree after two decades of trying to reclaim the language.
When she can, Dobson makes the trip up to Loon Lake and stays with either her brother or sister.
“It is nice, it’s very comforting I guess. But it is also kind of uncomfortable, because they speak the language and I don’t,” she said.
“Then I’ve got people speaking Cree around me, and I’m like are they talking about me?”
While Dobson has experienced hardship through the ‘60s Scoop she has a happy life overall. She doesn’t believe an apology from the province will ever truly be able to make up for having her culture taken from her, but she accepts where her life has gone.
“I’ve basically always known I was adopted, and it never really bothered me.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.