Theatre production puts Sixties Scoop survivors in the spotlight

After waiting decades to tell their stories, Sixties Scoop survivors will take the stage at the National Arts Centre Thursday evening in a special production that puts their experiences in the spotlight.

Voices from the Adoption Files at NAC's Back Stage Thursday evening

The cast of Voices from the Adoption Files rehearses at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

After waiting decades to tell their stories, Sixties Scoop survivors will take the stage at the National Arts Centre in a special production that puts their experiences in the theatrical spotlight.

Voices from the Adoption Files is a multi-disciplinary storytelling performance featuring survivors, their friends and family members, and musicians. It makes its debut at the NAC's Back Stage Thursday evening as part of the Ottawa Storytellers Speaking In/Speaking Out series.

"I'm very excited and very anxious, because I realized in the process of making this, I hadn't seen any other shows or stories presented on stage about [the Sixties Scoop]," said Lesley Parlane, the show's creator, producer and director.

Lesley Parlane is the show's creator, producer and director. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)
Parlane, originally from the Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation in Saskatchewan, was adopted by a non-Indigenous family in Calgary when she was four.

She's part of what's widely known as the Sixties Scoop, when thousands of Indigenous children in Canada were apprehended from their families and sent to live in non-Indigenous communities, beginning in the 1960s.

Storytelling and music

The show is based on conversations Parlane has had with other survivors dating back to 2000, when the phenomenon was largely unknown outside Indigenous communities.

"One of the things that drove me to start writing about my own experiences and the piece that I perform — what's inside of most these stories are thoughts and expressions and emotions that we normally don't get to share with other people that haven't been adopted, or through that experience of being fostered out," said Parlane.

Voices from the Adoption Files features storytelling, imagery, and musical performances that touch on different facets of the Sixties Scoop issue, from the experiences of the children who were taken, to the mothers who were forced to give them up for adoption.

One of the musical numbers written by survivor Beverley McKiver is called The Pied Piper of Turtle Island.
Louise Profeit-LeBlanc (centre) wrote a piece for the show about the loss felt by Indigenous mothers. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

Louise Profeit-LeBlanc will perform a story she wrote that's a tribute to friends who had to hand over their children to child welfare authorities.

"To honour what these mothers had to endure ... I really feel happy and honoured that I'm able to pull that piece together," said Profeit-LeBlanc, who calls being involved in this production an "emotional rollercoaster."

'We're turning a corner'

She's urging people unfamiliar with the Sixties Scoop saga to see the show so they can gain a better understanding of the history of Indigenous people in Canada. She believes staging this performance at the NAC shows that awareness of that period has grown in recent years.

"This means that we're turning a corner — we're turning a corner where children who had no say in the matter, and children who were helpless, now have a voice," said Profeit-LeBlanc.

"This is a unique way for other people to come and see the show and be like, 'Oh, so that's what you went through? Okay.' So maybe it'll give them a bit of insight," said Parlane.

Although the NAC show is just a single performance, the group hopes to eventually take Voices from the Adoption Files to venues across Canada.

Beverley McKiver and Sage Cardinal are performing in Voices from the Adoption Files. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)