When Colleen Cardinal was growing up in Ontario, she would get homesick, but she didn’t know why.
Cardinal was born in Alberta, and while she feels her DNA was trying to tell her that, it would take her years to learn it.
“My sisters and I, we were adopted when we were babies and taken to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario where we were adopted into a non-Indigenous household,” Cardinal explained Thursday.
She is a survivor of Canada’s Sixties Scoop, a series of policies that enabled child welfare agencies to “scoop up” Indigenous kids and adopt them to white families.
Cardinal is now the co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network, which brought people together in Edmonton on Thursday.
The gathering was a workshop called “In Our Own Words – Mapping the 60s Scoop Survivor Diaspora.”
“We are the children of residential school survivors, and we get left out of conversations. But we need support too,” Cardinal said.
“It was a direct act of genocide by removing us completely from our culture and our language, our homelands,” explains Sandra Relling with the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta.
Some of the workshop organizers are survivors. They hope to show others they aren’t alone by hosting a smudge, facilitating a sharing circle and explaining how to use an interactive online map.
“It’s a project to share with survivors about how they can access this map, how they can put their stories in there, and possibly find family members,” Cardinal said.
On the map, a survivor’s displacement is visualized using a line to connect where they were born and then taken to.
Journeys can be traced across provinces, countries and even continents.
“It’s very important for (survivors) in that aspect of bringing them home so that they understand that there is another community out there for them,” Relling said.
“When Sixties Scoop survivors come together, there is, for the first time for many people, a strong sense of connection that there are other people in this world, in this lifetime that really understand,” Cardinal said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jessica Robb