Christine Miskonoodinkwe-Smith, from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, was taken by child services when she was about a year old, along with her sister, and adopted by a non-indigenous family in the province of Ontario.
The loss of family and cultural connections can be devastating to children in care.
“Not knowing your culture just drives an anger inside you,” says Miskonoodinkwe-Smith, who is of Saulteaux descent. “It separates you from your very own identity in a way, because you have to live in two worlds. You’re living in a non-indigenous world, but then you know there’s another worldview, which is your culture.”
Her adoptive parents eventually became emotionally and physically abusive and gave her up when she was 10, but kept her biological sister. She spent the rest of her youth with other non-indigenous foster families and in group homes.
She didn’t get a chance to learn about her culture until her 20s.
“Once I started going to pow-wows and cultural events, it really made me change inside,” said Miskonoodinkwe-Smith, now a writer living in Toronto.
“It made me more aware of the issues around what indigenous people have been through.”