It’s a devastating sequel to the heartbreak of the residential school system. The generations of Indigenous children who lived through cultural genocide became mothers and fathers who didn’t know how to be maternal and paternal.
As the residential schools started to close, the federal government initiated another policy dubbed “The Sixties Scoop.”
Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, social workers removed Indigenous children from their reserve homes placing them with non-Indigenous foster families.
Erin Salomons is 39 years old. She was separated from her birth family as a newborn. She was adopted by a family she never felt she belonged to.
“My mom, Bonita, had me and she agonized over what to do with me she didn’t have a lot of support,” Salomons said.
“She surrendered me and she didn’t understand it’s so final.”
Salomons told Global News her childhood home was abusive.
“I wasn’t born into that home. I was brought into that home and that home had a lot of issues and a lot of violence.”
Salomons is among over 20,000 other survivors of the scoop. They’re being encouraged to engage in sessions across Alberta to share their stories.
The provincial government is preparing to give them a long-awaited acknowledgement of the truth. Indigenous relations minister, Richard Feehan, has been working alongside the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta.
“They can come and talk to us about an apology and what it should entail so when it does happen, it is an apology that has merit and depth,” Feehan said.
“It really was a theft of children and Alberta wants to take responsibility.”
Foster care workers throughout those decades weren’t given the training to understand reserve life. What they saw was poverty, addictions and felt they were scooping the children up for protection.
But in most cases, it was done without consent or knowledge.
Erin Salomons discovered the manipulation and deceit when she tracked down her birth records. Documents that came with the death certificate of her birth mother.
“I will always wonder what my life would have been like,” Salomons said through tears.
“But I have a relationship with her in a spiritual sense. She’s not here physically but she’s looked out for me and I’m still here to live the life she didn’t get to live.”