History of the Foundation
he National Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation of Canada came into existence as a result of the negotiated class action settlement compensation of a lump sum of $750 million to be distributed on an equal basis for all officially recognized Sixties Scoop Survivors. The sum of $50 million was designated to create this Healing Foundation.
The Foundation is an independent charity incorporated under the Not-for Profit Corporation Act of Canada with a mandate to serve all survivors of the Sixties Scoop—Inuit, Métis, status, and non-status First Nations —in every region of Canada from sea to sea to sea.
The Foundation does not provide direct healing or reunification to survivors or their families: this is the role of the regional
Sixties Scoop organizations, Indigenous Friendship Centres, and other healing program providers. The core mandate of the Foundation is to prudently and professionally manage the Foundation funds and to provide annual grants to these regional organizations so that they may execute tailored regional healing and reunification programs to meet their specific local and cultural needs.
In the past three years, since the establishment of the permanent Board of Directors, the Board has successfully managed to grant over $6.7 million to 38 organizations across Canada
from, sea to sea to sea, in each region of Canada for Inuit, First Nation and Métis Scoop Survivors, so as to begin the work of healing our Survivor communities through reclamation, reunion, and cultural practices reconnecting them to what has been lost.Buffy Saint-Marie Subject of a recent Fifth Estate Article
Buffy Saint-Marie's 2018 authorized biography claims that she was probably born Cree on a First Nation located north of Regina, in the early 1940s before being adopted and raised by a couple in Stoneham, Massachusetts. When she was in her early twenties, Buffy Sainte-Marie was formally adopted, following Cree tradition, into the Piapot family of the Piapot First NationThe Fifth Estate
article asserts that Buffy Sainte-Marie was in fact born into an American Italian family in the United States. The article asserts that to further her career, Buffy Sainte-Marie forged her identity as a Canadian Indigenous songwriter and performer. Buffy Sainte-Marie has in the past identified herself publicly with the struggle of the survivors of the Sixties Scoop, asserting that she does not know her family history. Buffy Sainte-Marie's towering musical talent, along with the pro-Indigenous political positions that the artist has taken over the years, including support for victims of the Sixties Scoop, have prompted many of our Sixties Scoop constituents to identify themselves with Buffy Sainte-Marie over the course of their lives.Context of the Foundation's Statement (PFD version)
The Foundation relies on our Indigenous Truths.
The Foundation's position is as follows:
● Support for Sixties Scoop Constituents:
We stand in solidarity with our Sixties Scoop constituents.
● Healing and Reconciliation:
Our perspective is grounded in the principles of healing and reconciliation.
We do not exclude or condemn individuals who support Indigenous Survivors.
● Indigenous Traditional Laws and Practices:
We uphold Indigenous traditional laws and practices, including Custom Adoption
● Indigenous Teachings and Philosophy:
Our lens is primarily Indigenous teaching and philosophy rather than Western European record-keeping systems, which allowed the practice of the Sixties Scoop to exist and thrive in the first place. Definition of "Sixties Scoop"
The term “Sixties Scoop” refers to the practice, during the 1950s through to the 1980s, of federal and provincial governments taking ("scooping up") Indigenous children from their families without their consent, placing them into non-Indigenous foster or adoptive homes.
Response to various issues raised by the recent Fifth Estate Articlea. Controversy over the claim, supported by a birth certificate located in a US record office, that Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Italian American.
The Fifth Estate article bases its claims on Western systems of record keeping. As Sixties Scoop Survivors, an intrinsic part of the record keeping system for the Sixties Scoop was its perpetrators' (Western) legal authority to swap out birth registry documents, erasing the original, true names and birth information connecting the stolen Indigenous child to their birth family, thus producing a false record of birth that legitimized the theft of the Indigenous child so documented. This fact is not presented or explained in the Fifth Estate article.b. Indigenous Custom Adoption
The Foundation accepts the affidavit of Delia Opekokew, of Canoe Lake Cree Nation, who is a nationally respected and widely known senior Indigenous lawyer. Ms. Opekokew was legal counsel for Buffy Sainte-Marie at the time she sought to investigate her Indigenous ancestry. Paragraphs 25 and excerpts of her May 27, 1980 letter to the CBC as found in the October 25, 2023 affidavit state in part:
In general, it is difficult to prove Indian births prior to 1944. The majority of Indian mothers, until the past twenty (20) years, had their children at home and did not register them unless there was a practical reason to do so.
In Ms. Sainte-Marie’s case, it was practice for the community to encourage single mother[s] to give up their children for adoption. Indian people were generally outside the system and were unaware of the requirements of such matters as the formal adoption process. It would appear from the evidence available that Ms. Sainte-Marie was given up for adoption without any written records having been kept.
...there are many instances of people having knowledge of Ms. Sainte-Marie’s history. Her mother, an unmarried woman, was from the Piapot Indian Reserve and had Buffy at Carven, Saskatchewan in a private home and eventually gave her up for adoption to a couple who were in the area at the time.
Her background is not exceptional in a culture whose people have always recorded their past orally.
Paragraph 12 of the same affidavit of Delia Opekokew, sworn May 27, 2023, states that the Piapot Family claims that Buffy Sainte-Marie was given up for adoption without any written records being kept. This was confirmed using oral evidence given by Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Buffy Sainte-Marie was accepted back into her community in her twenties under various Cree laws and customs, including Wahkohtowin
. The Cree law of Wahkohtowin
is derived from the natural world which helps guide our human actions. Wahkohtowin
is passed through language, song, prayer, and storytelling and speaks to the interconnectedness of all things, and our responsibilities to those we share the world with and the future.
While the Fifth Estate article tries to discredit the legacy of the Indigenous custom adoption, claiming there are no records, our Foundation supports the legitimacy of the Cree law of Wahkohtowin, and the legitimacy of the practice of Indigenous custom adoption and of any other mechanism initiated by Indigenous peoples that provides reconciliation, reconnection and healing.c. Buffy Saint-Marie being /not being Indigenous
The claims made on social media and in the Fifth Estate article argue that since her US birth certificate establishes Buffy as Italian American, she cannot be Canadian Indigenous, despite her acknowledged custom adoption by the Piapot First Nation. Sixties Scoop Survivors understand that for decades, original Indigenous birth records have, on the contrary, been altered and/or erased and replaced, to hide and legitimize the theft of Indigenous children.
It is not the place of the Foundation to pass judgment on the issue of who is and is not defined as Indigenous under the Indian Act
. The lived experience of Sixties Scoop Survivors demonstrates that official records of birth can and have been systematically changed to hide the crime of stealing Indigenous children from their families.
The Foundation supports the legitimacy of those Indigenous people whose status has not been granted and recognized under the Indian Act
. The Foundation regards Sixties Scoop Survivors who are classified as "non-Status" under the Indian Act as equal to Sixties Scoop Survivors who have status under the Indian Act.
The Foundation supports healing and reconciliation and the bringing home of lost children and adults to their families of origin and to their Indigenous communities.d. Buffy Saint-Marie associated with the Sixties Scoop
The Fifth Estate article makes an implicit allegation that Buffy Sainte-Marie falsely claimed to be a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. This allegation is never directly stated in any evidence put forward by the Fifth Estate article.
Buffy Sainte-Marie has said publicly and repeatedly that she does not know who her true family is. All Sixties Scoop survivors have had this experience at some point in their healing journey, prior to reconnecting with their Indigenous birth family and community of origin.
Buffy Sainte-Marie has been a vocal advocate for all Indigenous peoples and has also been highly supportive of Sixties Scoop Survivors. She has drawn attention to the issue of the Sixties Scoop. The Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation acknowledges that Buffy Sainte-Marie was quite possibly herself a scooped child.
The Foundation will not exclude or condemn individuals whose heart is in the right place and who, through their statements and actions, support Indigenous survivors.
e. Rhetoric aimed at Buffy Sainte-Marie
In the Fifth Estate article, secondary “side-show” issues are raised (legal battles, family hostility, etc.) in such a way as to distract from the question of Buffy Sainte-Marie's identity. This innuendo works to raise doubts in the viewer's mind 6as to Buffy Sainte-Marie's good character, painting her in an unflattering light and casting doubt on her statements about herself. The tone of the article is generally self-righteous, and the article's use of the slur "Pretendian" betrays the clear intention to stir up hostility against Buffy Sainte-Marie.
The Foundation will not participate in or be party to these distractions and blatant attempts at besmirching Buffy Sainte-Marie’s character.