The Sixties Scoop
By: Melanie Escobar
This month’s blog theme revolves around Indigenous history, and the Sixties Scoop is an important topic within that broader subject. The Sixties Scoop was a period in Indigenous history in which colonialism worked to eradicate Indigenous culture by enforcing European and Christian values on Indigenous children. The term “Sixties Scoop” was coined by Patrick Johnston in 1983 regarding the child welfare system and the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. The events of the Sixties Scoop led to cultural and social issues that continue to impact Indigenous families in Canada even today.
The Sixties Scoop refers to the period from the 1950s until the 1980s when social workers went to Indigenous reserves and stole children that the Canadian government deemed were subject to “inadequate” living standards. These living standards which the Canadian government judged the Indigenous communities against were based on a Eurocentric perspective. What they believed constituted proper care was based on middle-class Euro-Canadian values. The lifestyles that Indigenous families raised their children in did not satisfy the expectations set by the Canadian government and so children of these families were removed from their homes. Before 1950, the Canadian government still removed children from Indigenous families, however, there was a tremendous spike and overrepresentation after around 1951 of Indigenous children. The question is, why was there a sudden spike in the removal of Indigenous children? It began after the end of the compulsory attendance of residential schools by Indigenous children. However, To circumvent the end of compulsory attendance, in 1951 the Indian Act gave the provincial government's authority over the welfare of Indigenous children. Following that, the number of Indigenous children removed from their homes and placed into the system began rapidly multiplying. In British Columbia, for example, there were roughly 30 Indigenous children in the system in 1951. By 1964, there were over 1,400 Indigenous children in the system. The rise in children in the welfare system was 50 times higher than in 1951 over the course of little over a decade. Children placed in the welfare system were often adopted by predominantly white, middle-class, Euro-Canadian families and taught to live a Western lifestyle. Some children have stated that they were sexually and physically abused in these families. At least 20,000 Indigenous children were removed and placed in non-Indigenous foster care or adoptive homes in Canada, the United States and even overseas.
The Sixties Scoop serves as a reminder of how Eurocentric thinking has affected Indigenous culture and Indigenous lives in Canada. The events of the Sixties Scoop continue to have a significant impact on Indigenous peoples today. Indigenous children are still overrepresented in the welfare system, and Indigenous parents are also more likely than non-Indigenous families to be contacted by child protective services. Many survivors experienced abuse, internalized racism, poor mental health, and a lack of understanding of their culture and teachings. I believe that the events of the Sixties Scoop need to be addressed and discussed more in classrooms. When researching this, I felt it was important to go to Indigenous sources to better understand the impact that this event had on Indigenous peoples. As we said in the post introducing this topic, it is important to amplify and listen to Indigenous voices, especially when it comes to Indigenous history.
Varley, Autumn. “The Circle Is Strong: Family, Identity, and the Child Welfare System”.
ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2016
“The Sixties Scoop.” The Indigenous Foundation. The Indigenous Foundation, July 26,
Kodeeswaran, Janani, Maggie Campaigne, and Anita C Benoit. “‘I’ll Struggle, and I’ll
fall…I’ll Have My Days, but It’s Okay’ Indigenous Women Surviving the Sixties Scoop.” International indigenous policy journal 13, no. 1 (2022).