2016, Nov 14: Panel on "Adoption and Colonialism"

Lai-Tze Fan edited this page Nov 15, 2016 · 7 revisions

November 14: Roundtable on "Adoption and Colonialism: Forced Migrations, Resistances, Art and Reacculturation" (Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada)

Description of talk

Moderator: Amandine Gay (filmmaker and scholar; UQAM)

Joshua Whitehead

  • see: @concrete_poet

  • poems are his response as the son of a father who is a "60s Scoop" survivor

  • June 2015: Manitoba apologized for Canada's 60s group: removal of Indigenous children from their families and adoption by white Canadian families

    • "60s Scoop" moves into the 80s
  • interested in effect and affect of 60s Scoop in an intergenerational sense

  • how does adopted child fit in community sense, and the disconnect as part of colonial efforts

    • part of the process of assimilation
    • putting child in extended family, as the caretakers are also often traumatized
    • Banita (sp?) Lawrence (sp?)'s "no man's child" term intersects with the term "no man's land," interrelating relation of land to children
  • 1962: bifurcation of Josh's family through displacement of his murdered grandmother's children

    • response: pushing for apologies, compensation, access to original birth certificates
    • funding for resurgence, reconcilation, rekinship

- I was moved to tears by Joshua's performance and powerful poetry. I heard over my shoulder some sniffling and turned to see an older woman with tears dripping from her chin.

  • Q for Josh: from missing parts, violence, and things that are traumatic, how to build a narrative that questions dominant narrative and of colonialism?

-A: poems come out of trauma and pain, a bubbling of blood memories and a longing for kinship
* had always heard stories of his grandmother, Rose Whitehead
* had always felt this longing for her that his father had also had
* blood memories as intergenerational; in many cases, can take seven generations to get over it
* questions of indigeneity come late: auto-didactic often; he had not learned about residential schools until he was 25
* his poems and stories became ghostly, but in a culturally correct, healthy, and political way
* stories as gravemarkers--esp for his grandmother, who has a gravemaker
* she represents the disappearing Indigenous person in this sense
* trauma in blood and communal kinship legacies
* he has to interpollate and interrogate those who benefit from settler colonialism
* poetry and storytelling as his most important means of reclamation and decolonialism

Martine Chartrand

  • animation filmmaker
  • see: http://martinechartrand.net/
  • film: Ame Noire (Black Soul)
    • pencil-colour texture to this word-less film that documents the history of African Americans and a memory of Africa
    • includes audio clip of the beginning of MLK's speech "I Have a Dream"


(Executive Director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montréal &TV producer + host/Directrice du Foyer pour Femmes Autochtones de Montréal, productrice et animatrice d'émission TV )
See: http://indigenouspower.ca/ and @nakusets

  • Q: also asked about using storytelling

  • was part of the 60s Scoop

  • born in Thompson, Manitoba as part of the Crees

  • was made to assimilate by put into catalogues and newspaper clippings with msg to adopt an Indigenous child as a "good thing" bc her parents "couldn't take care of them"

    • taken to Montréal and adopted by a Jewish family; lots of Jewish Indigenous for this reason
  • her parents had no respect for Indigenous kids, gave her a Jewish name, told her to say she's Israeli, sent her to Hebrew school

    • she rebelled: the more she looked towards Mohawks, the more her parents pushed
    • left when she was 18 and had to make decisions about who she was and who she was going to be
  • supported by her Yiddish grandmother, who helped her get her Indian status and connected her with her family

  • saw that the Native communities in Montréal were separated so she worked at Native Women's Shelter in 1999

    • went to organizations with issues with Indigenous people
    • re-curring question and "yes" response to people and kids in youth protection services
  • she created a network of org and non-org to improve lives of urban Aboriginals

    • before you separate mother and child, bring them into the Indigenous network to see if there's a way to take care of the kids
    • msg to try this first before they separate the family
    • something wrong with their method in which kids didn't grow up with cultural pride and could grow up on the streets
    • also give them a pamphlet that includes Indigenous role models, counteracting the way Nakuset grew up
  • she will help to train 600 police officers soon

    • Missing Indigenous Women's procedure is part of the effort

Jenny Wills

  • see: @Jenny_Wills_

  • talks about her upbringing being born in Seoul and adopted in Southern Ontario

  • transnational and transracial adoption approach is through narrative, and works with those involved in the adoption constellation (including adoptees, families, and those who aren't directly connected but are interested)

  • interested in what adoption reveals about oppression, exchange of capital, gendered labour

  • transnational adoptees since the 1950s as "forced migrants" (Amandine Gay's term)

    • white-centered kinship
  • Asian-Canadians in indentured servitude, dehumanized in the 1940s, excluded through immigration bans and head taxes

    • disavowed as genuinely belonging
    • "model minority" stereotype of East Asians excludes other racial groups, and also excludes South Asians, South East Asians, and so forth
  • lost generation of young people in many East Asian countries (Korea, Vietnam) with parents from settlers

    • transnational adoption treated as one of the only options: Canada, US, Australia
  • how can we think past agency and choice in order to atone for fact that our adoptions uses family as tool for occupation and domination?

  • how do we address our adoptions hinge on anti-black, anti-Indigenous oppression with knowledge that Asians are treated as "honorary whites"?

  • aims to step outside of feelings of disenfranchisement and point to efforts to which her adoption has contributed

    • holding settler culture accountable

On Narrative

  • she reflects on the poetry, film, personal and auto-critical modes of expressions tonight as acts of resistance against colonial narrative
    • combats idea that adoptees are better off raised in other families, countries, communities
  • narratives piques her interest for political gestures that it offers
  • her chosen mode for combatting transnational/transracial discourses is scholarship (and teaching)
    • enables her to chip away at systems and to get to meet other transnational adoptees that she didn't have access when she was growing up

Question Period

  • Nakuset: it took over a decade to deal with these issues

    • her network was created in 2008; women were suffering and things had to change
    • she feels her Executive Director position and title allows her to move towards change
  • Q: Amandine asks about how tiring/angering it is to fight and struggle against institutions, organizations, and their respective circles for correct representation

  • Josh

    • U Sask PhD student; first Indigenous student in their English program
    • always feels as if he's a token or as he's performing the Indigeneity that they want to see
      • as if he's a voice for all or a voice for reconciliation
    • finds that he does a ton of work and has to participate in department work all the time
    • he was raised with his father's Polish adoptee surname and was mistaken for Japanese or Chinese
      • felt a phrasing liminality (races, identities, institutions)
      • so his whole life is about embracing the ghastly liminality of this
        - unfortunately, because I don't speak French, I can't provide notes on Chartrand's comments during the discussion period
  • Jenny

    • discusses having the position of tenure as "a badge of academic freedom"
    • comes with a huge change with how she sees academia and the institution
    • has started to resist tokenistic committee work that Josh refers to
    • refers to Audre Lorde, who says one of the ways marginalized people can be distracted is by having to explain marginialization to priviledged peoples
      • we can't make progress because we are forced to repeat the same "101" (introductory-level) conversations
    • focusing on re-directing her attention to curriculum building by people who feel marginalized by the curriculum
  • Nakuset

    • finds a lot of resistance from people to learn about Indigenous history
    • and when they do learn, they usually respond by being shocked/outraged
    • she is not being paid for a lot of her work, but very few want to do it as well
  • Jenny responds that by teaching, she also teaches Liberal-claiming colleagues

  • Q: Amandine asks about keeping the institutions accountable

  • Josh: was told there were going to be courses on Indigenous courses and literature, but there wasn't

    • program started to shut down Directed Readings
    • Josh created a course on Two-Spirit and Indigeous Queer Cultures
  • Jenny: has tried to point out shortcomings of Liberal thinking and is not sure if enough has been accomplished yet to atone for inequalities on campus

    • including lowered salaries for POC and WOC, lowered retention, denial of tenure
  • audience Q: adopted person who wants to know how to start having a dialogue with her parents

  • Nakuset: was super proud of being different, but her parents felt insulted by her pride and encouraged assimilation

    • encourages audience member to ask herself why she's seeking her culture
    • encourages her to meet other adoptees with similar identities (Jewish Natives, etc.)
  • Amandine: her family had an open and ongoing discussion on adoption

    • she reflects that people had the wrong idea about why she wanted to seek out her original culture
    • ideas of her as an "angry adoptee" that is turning against her family
    • also discusses scholars who work on this as being thought of as traumatized, which is very strange bc sexual assault researchers are not asked if they were sexually assaulted
    • adoptees as forever children or something
  • Jenny: discusses that she "turned Asian" when she was 20

    • she didn't have access to an Asian language as with other Asian people/friends
    • she showed her parents Asian adoptee memoirs that weren't accusatory or as something for which they had to be defensive
    • then her parents could ask if they felt or experienced the way as examples in the books
    • many documentary films with examples of how to initiate conversations, esp by not initiating convo by talking about one's own experience
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