How Madisyn Whajne turned her Sixties Scoop survival story into music

Musician Madisyn Whajne used her settlement money from the federal government to release her debut album.
Madisyn Whajne's journey to learn about her biological family hasn't been easy, but it's been life-changing, she says. (Jen Squires)

Musician Madisyn Whajne knew she was adopted, but was told the reason she was given up was because her biological mother was an alcoholic and couldn't care for her. 

She had no idea that she was a victim of the Sixties Scoop, a series of policies that resulted in thousands of Indigenous children in Canada taken from their families and placed in foster homes of predominantly white families.

Whajne believed she qualified for the settlements that were being given to Scoop survivors, but needed her birth records. She joined the lawsuit to strike down the sealed birth records but needed to prove they were sealed.

She called Sudbury Child Services, looking for someone to sign an affidavit attesting to that fact. When a woman answered, things didn't go quite as Whajne expected. 

"I could hear her, typing away, opening up my file," Whajne recalled. Though the woman said she couldn't give Whajne the birth records, she agreed to sign the affidavit. But the conversation took a turn.

"She asked me if I still had long auburn hair, and I said, yes. And then she asked me, 'Do you still have the strawberry birthmark in the middle of your forehead?' And I said, yes. And she said, 'Do your eyes still go green when you get angry?' And I said, yes," Whajne said.

"At this point, I was absolutely floored."

Whajne's album, Save Our Hearts, was produced using Sixties Scoop settlement money. (Submitted by Take Aim Media)

The woman then wished Whajne luck on her court case and hung up the phone. "I sat there, completely stunned," she said.

A couple of minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the same woman.

"She said, 'Listen, I knew your mother and she never stopped looking for you,'" Whajne said. The woman gave Whajne the phone number for her biological aunt. 

The next day, she was on a plane to Winnipeg.

Sharing her story

Whajne hoped to meet her mother when she arrived, but learned that her mother had already died. 

But the trip was still life changing for Whajne, who met her brother, sister and found out she has four more siblings, one of whom she still needs to find.

She learned her mother was born into a family of 18, and that she has more than 600 nieces and nephews. 

She always knew she was Ojibwe, but she learned about customs and ceremonies from her family.

She channeled much of her feelings into her debut album, Save Our Hearts, and used the money she received as part of the federal Sixties Scoop settlement to produce it. 

It's not only a dream of Whajne's, it was also a part of her healing journey, too.

Whajne hopes her music shows the darkness she felt she went through with a glimmer of resilience in the end. (madisynwhajne.com)

"It enabled me to catch up to my dreams, but it's also enabled me to share my story with the world," she said. "I think that's helped me heal from a really traumatic past."

Much of the writing happened after the birth of her son, Raven. She had postpartum depression, and writing helped her through it. "It's really a personal journey through heartache, a lot of darkness, a lot of longing, a lot of desire, but still with a glimmer of hope and resilience, I feel," she said. 

"I think that I was searching outside of myself for something that I needed to find inside of myself. 

"In the end, that's what the record did for me."

Produced by Stephanie Cram. Written by Kyle Muzyka.