The Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA), brought a one-day exhibit called Bi-Giwen: Coming Home – Truth Telling from the Sixties Scoop to the Prince George Public Library.
“It talks about the Sixties Scoop told from 12 different perspectives of Individuals who have gone through the Sixties Scoop in their lifetimes,” said SISSA president, Sandra Relling.
“I think the importance is to shed light on this point of time in Canadian history that is really not talked about yet.”
The Sixties Scoop refers to government practices across Canada from the 1950s to the 1980s that led to an unknown number of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children being taken from their parents, families, and communities by child intervention services and placed in non-Indigenous families.
Many of these children experienced abuse, mistreatment, and neglect and lost touch with their families, communities, culture, and traditional language and the effects of the Sixties Scoop are still felt by survivors and their families today.
“Child welfare agencies went in and literally started scooping kids up out of their communities and started placing them in non-Indigenous homes not only across Canada but North America and globally.”
The exhibit is currently touring across B.C. and stopped in Prince George on June 1 to mark the first day of National Indigenous History Month.
“Prince George has absolutely blown us away with the welcoming, the interest and people just wanting to learn more and that really gives me hope that change is possible, and healing is possible and reconciliation is well on its way,” said Relling.
“I am grateful that so many people turned out to view the exhibit today to ask questions and to learn more about what we have gone through as Sixties Scoop survivors.”
The exhibit opened in Prince George to a full crowd, a welcoming song by Lheidli T’enneh musician Kym Gouchie and speeches by Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dolleen Logan and Mayor Lyn Hall.
“I have always said before we can have reconciliation we must have the truth,” said Logan.
“This travelling exhibit is very important to help bring this to light […] this allows our members and residents of the city to learn more about the Sixties Scoop. We have learned the first time but now it is time everybody knows what happened.”
Hall said he wanted to highlight the importance of this exhibit to the community of Prince George.
“Over the past couple of years, we have seen other significant events including the finding of the 215 unmarked graves of the Kamloops Residential School, the Red Dress Campaign to remember the murdered and missing women along Highway 16 commonly referred to as the Highway of Tears, and this has brought a new awareness to many people about Canada's relationship to Indigenous peoples,” said Hall.
“It is exhibits like this one that are so important for raising awareness and keeping memories alive they are vital for amplifying the voices of survivors.”
The Governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta have delivered formal apologies for past practices that led to the removal of Indigenous children from their families, resulting in a loss of culture, identity and connection to their communities
However, the province of B.C. has not yet offered an official apology.
“We believe hosting exhibits and conversations like this is extremely important to our community,” said library board chair Mike Gagel.
“Bringing our community together to learn about this tragic and significant part of our history in a safe and supportive space is a vital part of this mission.”
The exhibit itself was created through the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which is a national Indigenous charitable organization with the mandate to educate and create awareness about the Residential School System, including the intergenerational impacts such as the Sixties Scoop.
“It is my lived experienced but for other people to experience it you really need to read the stories in the exhibit,” added Relling.
“There’s also an opportunity on the Legacy of Hope website to go through and listen to those stories and there are video recordings that are more in depth.”
The exhibit will move onto Kamloops on June 4, followed by Victoria on June 15 and conclude with a three-day run in Vancouver.