New interactive project aims to map the displacement of '60s Scoop survivors

Visualizing the displacement of Sixties Scoop survivors is the idea behind a recently launched interactive map 'In our own Words.'

'It’s about visualizing our stories and getting our stories out to the world,' says Colleen Hele-Cardinal

In our own Words: Mapping the Sixties Scoop Diaspora is an interactive map launched by the Sixties Scoop Network in collaboration with University of Regina Professor Raven Sinclair. (CBC)

The United Kingdom, Germany, India, the Netherlands and Botswana are just some of the places overseas where Indigenous children from Canada ended up after they were removed from their homes and traditional territories during the Sixties Scoop.

Visualizing the displacement is the idea behind the recently launched interactive map In our own Words: Mapping the Sixties Scoop Diaspora. It's a collaboration between the Sixties Scoop Network (formerly the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network), and University of Regina Professor Raven Sinclair, who initiated the Pe-kīwēwin (Coming home) project.

"It's about visualizing our stories and getting our stories out to the world. I want to help those who have been taken away have a voice," said Colleen Hele-Cardinal, co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network, a grassroots collective of survivors based in Ottawa. 

"A lot of people think the Sixties Scoop just happened in Canada. Look at how far they took our children, how far they took us away from our traditional lands. We need to show that visual displacement."

Between the 1950s and early 1990s, over 22,500 Indigenous children in Canada were apprehended by child welfare agencies and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents and lost their cultural identities as a result.

Colleen Hele-Cardinal is a co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

Canada signed a $875 million class action settlement agreement with First Nations and Inuit Sixties Scoop survivors in 2017 and some began receiving interim compensation from the settlement this month.  But unlike the hearings held by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Hele-Cardinal said survivors of the Sixties Scoop have not had any formal processes to share their stories.

"I want the world to know what happened to us," she said.

"People think Canada is this awesome country. It's far from it, from what happened to us."

Survivors who choose to participate in the map can add as much or as little information as they want into the system, including photos and videos, and narratives about their birth, adoption journey, and repatriation. Hele-Cardinal said it will be a powerful tool for survivors to find family, connect with one another, and have their voices heard on their own terms. 

Amnesty International to help raise awareness

In April, Amnesty International Canada announced it was partnering with the network to raise awareness about the Sixties Scoop.

Ana Collins, Indigenous rights adviser at the non-profit organization, said the Sixties Scoop is a human rights violation, and hopes Amnesty's network of eight million members can help push for change in terms of reconnecting people with their families, community, and nation.

"It's a way to move toward justice," said Collins.

"When you're talking about Indigenous kids who were removed from their territories and sent so far away, and there's language divides, different media, different governments, it's complicated. To engage a network of millions of people who could potentially spread the word and advocate in their own nation-states, that's the strength Amnesty has in this situation."


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawake, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec. Email her at