Indigenous Childhood and Family
Directed by Christiane Guay, Sébastien Grammond
Issues in research on Aboriginal children and families
Sébastien Grammond, Christiane Guay
This article presents a review of the colonial policies that had devastating consequences on Aboriginal children and families, among which residential schools and the enforcement of youth protection regulations. It examines the efforts that have been made in the last forty years to adapt the State institutions that impact children and young Aboriginals. It also gives an overview of the cultural and identity-related issues facing Aboriginal children, youths and families, especially as regards the land, views of the extended family and parenting practices. It follows with considerations on the necessary self-determination of Aboriginal peoples in the fields relevant to childhood and the family.
Residential Schools: Intergenerational Impacts
Jacinthe Dion, Jennifer Hains, Amélie Ross, Delphine Collin-Vézina
Residential schools were institutions that operated from the late 19th century to the late 20th century that Indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend. Investigations have shown that many of the youths attending these institutions were the victims of negligence and abuse. The negative impacts of abuse during childhood have been well documented, in in particular by the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Nevertheless, few quantitative studies on this topic have been conducted. The goal of this research is to document the impacts of residential school attendance – both on former attendees and on their adult children – for a population of Québec Indigenous people. In all, we met with 301 Indigenous participants. Among them, 26.9% attended a residential school, and 45.5% had a parent who frequented one. The results indicate that residential school attendance is associated with a higher likelihood of having experienced trauma (sexual abuse, physical abuse, spousal abuse, etc.), either as a child or as an adult. The results also show that residential school attendance is associated with several problems such as excessive drug or alcohol consumption, problem gambling, and psychological distress. The study highlights the importance of taking into account the consequences of historical and intergenerational trauma stemming from residential schools in our understanding the current situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“Tahitian is for saying hello and goodbye”: children’s comments about an Indigenous language in suspense
Marie Salaün, Jacques Vernaudon, Mirose Paia
Tahiti is the main island of the South Pacific archipelago French Polynesia that has been linked since 1842 through various statutes to the French Republic, 16,000 kilometres away. And while they have never been a demographic minority, nor had their land taken away to the same extent as occurred in the Americas and the Pacific, Tahitians (about 80% of the island’s population of about 183,000 people) have incontestably been victims of a policy of assimilation that accelerated in the early 1960s, as the territory became the French nuclear testing ground. With much greater exposure to institutions imported from Paris (legal and educational), and more urbanized and dependent on salaried employment, Tahitians began to project their children into a French-speaking future, within which the transmission of Polynesian languages came to be seen as prejudicial to social integration. As a result, the loss of these languages has become obvious: while 52% of people 75 to 79 years old say they speak a Polynesian language in the family, this is true of only 17% of people 15 to 19 years old.
As a reaction to the often hegemonic ambition of the French culture and language, and to preserve what can be saved of the Tahitian language and culture, a policy aimed at promoting this language and culture at school was implemented in the early 1980s.
Based on empirical studies carried out among teachers, parents, and the students themselves, in particular through programs conducted by the French National Research Agency in 2008–2012, and the French ministry of culture in 2013–2014, this article examines the issues of the complementarity between school and extended family in the transmission of language and culture, with a particular focus on children’s representations of the languages they speak themselves, the languages they hear around them, and the languages that they will learn later.
Making sense of the experience of family, school and community life among youths and teachers in Nunavik
Aboriginal families have suffered transformations and long-term disruptions following the nefarious effects of colonialism, forced relocation and residential schools. Despite many efforts and considerable steps forward, the aftermath is still felt in communities.
Based on participatory research in Nunavik, we examine the expressions of family, community, the Inuktitut language and Inuit culture as well as of the topic of identity and visions of the future in the statements of Inuit students and teachers. The scope of this study, which was carried out over three years, allowed us to maintain a continuous presence in the school and the community and to thus foster relationships based on trust. It also allowed time for the youths and the teachers to participate and contribute according to their own rhythm and preferences.
The students we spoke with express feelings of living at the intersection of two worlds (Inuit and non-Inuit). They try to strike a balance while asserting their language and their culture, and they share the same fears as the adults do concerning the future of their community. Furthermore, their inability to fully master Inuktitut prevents them from developing significant relationships with the elders. Teachers and students alike want to see more commitment on the part of families and the community.
The interplay between urbanization, “historical trauma” and cultural identity among Indigenous youth in Canada
Elizabeth Fast, Jennifer Nutton, Mireille De La Sablonnière-Griffin, Anna Kozlowski, Nahka Bertrand, Swaneige Bertrand, Jennifer Mitchell
Urbanization is a form of ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples (Taylor and Bell, 2004). It is a consequence of historical trauma – a culmination of losses suffered by Indigenous peoples in Canada as a result of colonialism that has manifested as trauma symptoms such as higher rates of addiction, mental health problems, and family violence (Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46; Brave Heart, 1998; Evans-Campbell, 2008; Wesley-Esquimaux and Smolewski, 2004). It is also a symptom of current colonialist conditions, such as infrastructure deficiencies that force people to leave their home communities to work, undertake higher education or, in many cases, receive essential medical care. Using interviews from a larger study that explored the cultural identity of urban Indigenous youth in Montreal, we illustrate how urbanization, historical trauma, and cultural identity interplay in the lives of the youth interviewed for this study. The study operationalized OCAP® principles by having a committee comprised of urban Indigenous youth oversee all aspects of the research process (CPN, 2007). The analysis identified four broad themes interconnecting urbanization, historical trauma, and cultural identity. First, participants identified the ways in which historical trauma impacted their lives. Their discourse converged to identify urbanization as a form of ongoing colonial policy and of historical trauma. Finally, the youth discussed their experiences of racism and stereotypes in urban settings and how this affected their sense of cultural identity. We illustrate how urbanization, historical trauma, and cultural identity interplay in the lives of the youth interviewed for this study.
The discrimination case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on child welfare services for First Nations children and the Jordan Principle
Anne Levesque, Sarah Clarke, Cindy Blackstock
More First Nations children today are being placed in foster care than the number of students who ever attended residential schools. It is becoming increasingly clear that this problem is caused by inequitable and insufficient federal government funding for child welfare services. In 2007, the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (the Caring Society) and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint concerning two allegations of discrimination. The first allegation concerned a conflict of jurisdiction between the federal and provincial governments that resulted in First Nations children often having to wait to receive vital services or even refused services provided to other children. The second allegation of discrimination concerned the unfair treatment of 163,000 First Nations children in the child welfare system provided on reserves. In both cases, it was alleged that these treatments constituted discriminatory acts prohibited under the Canada Human Rights Act. Over the next six years, the Canadian government spent millions of dollars on numerous unsuccessful attempts to derail the case. The case was nevertheless brought before the Human Rights Tribunal in February 2013; for the first time in Canadian history, the federal government’s liability regarding allegations of discrimination toward First Nations children was examined by a body that could make legally binding decisions and remedial orders. Over the year that followed, the Tribunal heard from over 25 witnesses and examined over 500 evidentiary documents. Internal federal documents that were submitted revealed consistent and systematic discrimination against First Nations children, along with a failure to resolve the problem, even with known solutions at hand. Even while the case was still before the Tribunal, a number of academics and members of First Nations began making parallels between the federal government’s reaction in this case and other cases of discrimination in access to services such as education, policing, health, and housing in Indigenous communities. This article expresses the perspectives of three authors who were closely involved in the case: two as lawyers and the other as a witness and complainant. It first provides an overview of the main legal issues raised in the case and then analyses the documentary and testimonial evidence. The need to correct the situation in other spheres of governmental services for First Nations people is also discussed.
From the Youth Protection Act to the Atikamekw Authority Intervention System (SIAA) – One nation’s solutions to insure the wellbeing of its children
This article is concerned with the application of the Youth Protection Act in Aboriginal settings in Quebec and more specifically with the initiatives taken in this regard by the Atikamekw nation. It begins with a presentation of the general system of the Youth Protection Act in the context of its being adopted at the end of the 1970s and states the difficulties surrounding its application in Aboriginal areas in Quebec. It specifies the context in which social services were taken over by the Atikamekw and their efforts to create, and later to experiment with, a specific youth protection system applicable to their members. This specific system is at the origin of the inclusion of Article 37.5 in the Act, thereby allowing the Government of Quebec to conclude agreements with a nation, community or other aboriginal group in order to apply a specific youth protection system on a determined territory. The Atikamekw Authority Intervention System (SIAA) is the specific system that has applied to the Atikamekw of the Manawan and Wemotaci communities for a little over 15 years. SIAA exists alongside the State system. It has its own stakeholders and its own operations, which we will describe. Commonalities and differences between the general system and the specific youth protection system will be clarified and the article will be further supplemented by sharing some results ensuing from the application of SIAA.
Traditional adoption among the Inuit of Nunavik: its characteristics and consequences on child development
Béatrice Decaluwe, Marie-Andrée Poirier, Gina Muckle
Different practices relating to the exchange or transfer of children can be observed within indigenous or aboriginal groups. Notably, among the Inuit of Nunavik, one third of the children are adopted according to tradition (Rochette et al., 2007). Based on the gifting of a child to another member of the community, this practice of informal adoption stems from the way in which the Inuit understand the family and define the concept of filiation. This article aims to offer a description of traditional adoption among the Inuit. The first part outlines the cultural elements influencing the way this practice unfolds and the main characteristics (reasons leading to the adoption, upholding of the filial relationship, consent, etc.) that distinguish it from other types of adoption (simple, full and open adoption) existing in the Western world. The second part is concerned with the family environment and with the development of adopted children, which is compared to that of children that were not adopted.
School-based and Mapuche education: Perspectives of Mapuche parents
Daniel Quilaqueo, Héctor Torres, Segundo Quintriqueo
This article emerges out of an epistemological study of the primary characteristics of school-based and Mapuche education, using an approach centred on educational science and the epistemic logic of Mapuche parents in Chile’s La Araucanía region. With the reforms to Chile’s education system currently underway, it is vital to contribute to the debates on the ways of thinking, imagining and criticizing the school education given to Mapuche population, with the starting point being the results of dual educational immersion (Mapuche education/school-based education). Based on qualitative research conducted among Mapuche parents and kimches (Mapuche wisemen), this study identifies colonial facets of their discourse regarding school, which have come about through the kind of schooling received by students in schools located in Mapuche environments. However, reforms by the Chilean state aim to implement bilingual intercultural education in order to incorporate Mapuche educational content into the school curriculum. This study concludes that the educational content mentioned in the analyzed discourses may help to transform the hegemonic and asymmetric model that can still be found in the bilingual intercultural education offered by the state. This will help reconsider the concept of school in order to adapt it to the inter-ethnic relations in the life context of Mapuche and non-Mapuche families.
Being well attached to life: road safety among Anicinabek families
Stéphane Grenier, Laurence Hamel-Charest, Suzanne McMurphy, G. Brent Angell
The underutilization of child car seats among Canadian Aboriginals could let us think that Aboriginal parents care little for the safety of their children. We unpack this hypothesis through analysing the establishment of intervention programs aimed at improving road safety in two Anicinabek communities of Quebec, Lac-Simon and Kitcisakik. The concerns of these communities’ members and the types of actions they wish to prioritize in order to reduce the harm caused by motorized vehicle accidents show that children hold an important symbolic space. Rather than the result of parental negligence, the underutilization of child car seats appears in great part due to the poverty in which a number of Aboriginal families live. Furthermore, youth safety seems to be a motivation leading communities and their members on the path of change. This article also informs us on the type of education and the concept of family that are most frequent among the Anicinabek. Taking these cultural elements into account in the development of intervention programs allows for the adaptation of action to the local context.
Modern conjugality, a new way of thinking about the bond
Conjugality is central to a process of transforming intimate relationships, one that revolves around the “democratization” of the family, the equalization of gender roles, and the promotion of individualities. But this multifaceted process is also based on changing norms of interaction, their transferal into an ever-changing social imaginary, and the configuration of personal identities. This article first considers the overall logics underlying these changes before attempting to describe their effects on conjugality and the various functions of life as a couple – reciprocal expressiveness, identity refuge, shared normativity – which are examined in their numerous interrelationships. Through the reconfiguration of conjugal normativity and the affirmation of the identity-based nature of conjugality, we are witnessing a metamorphosis of traditional conjugal bonds, which the development of new methods of meeting people and the affirmation of new values and practices have helped to redefine, within a tension between the hedonization of relationships and personal accountability.
Working children and youth associations in Burkina Faso as spaces for the expression of the child’s capacity for action?
Since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, taking into account the children’s point of view on decisions that affect them (article 12 of the Convention) has become increasingly popular. In this context child and youth movements have appeared in Asia, in Latin America and in Africa, seeking to be heard regarding the fight against child labour.
The working children and youth associations in Burkina Faso (AEJT/BF) that are studied in this article are a national representation of the African working children and youths movement (MAEJT) that was created at the end of the 1980s. The movement is based on two core principles: on the one hand the 12 primary rights of the children and young labourers and on the other hand the concept of “protagonism” (the child labourer as a capable stakeholder, rather than the child labourer as a “victim” of exploitation such as appears in international norms).
This article describes and analyses the workings of this movement in Burkina Faso, the manners in which it has reframed social issues concerning child labour and the results of the application of its guidelines. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper offers original data on the realities of a collective player that has used the rhetoric of “participation” of the Convention on the rights of the child to its advantage, and has thus succeeded in entering the national debate on child protection. However, the Burkinabe section of the movement must still deal with questions such as those regarding the place and role of the children as well as that of the “aging” of their members.