AIM Program – 60’s Scoop
Did you know that the Allen Blakeney government appointed people to go onto First Nations reserves to forcebly remove children from their parents, sometimes without the parents knowledge. Just imagine coming home from work and your children are gone!! There is nothing more devastating than finding your children gone, even when you found out where they were, you could not do anything to get them back – if you did chances are you would break the law and chances are you would spend time in jail.
This story among thousands happened all the time to First Nations families, all across the country people still don’t know what happened to their children.
” April 1, 1967 was the inaugural date of the program (AIM -Adopt Indian and Metis children) geared to placing Indian and Metis children for adoption. Undertaken as a two-year pilot project to determine the feasability of such placement. AIM was designed to operate in a specific area of the province (the south-east corner), and to provide publicity and follow-up service to communities, groups and interested parties. “-Saskatchewan Department of Welfare, Annual Report 1967 – 1968
I remember one time during the late spring (May 1972)- my cousin was keeping us -she was 17 years old and my youngest brother Roddy was 4 years old , Bert was 6 and I was 8 years old, it was after school and we were instructed by my parents to go to my uncle’s house as they had to go into town to sell pickets and get groceries. We decided to take a walk to my Grandma’s house just down the road, as we were walking my cousin noticed a bird’s nest in the bushes off the road. My cousin decided to climb the tree and told us to wait by the road – she did’nt want us to get our school clothes dirty. As soon as she climbed the tree , out from nowhere a car pulled up beside us. What I noticed was a large picture on the side of the car with fancy royal script and a picture of a crown, when it stopped a man in a tight brown-grey suit stepped out from the passenger side and asked us what our names were and to get into the back seat, the driver never stepped out but he had on glasses and never smiled. My cousin (Dorothy Starchief) came rushing down the tree yelling for us to run – “Ta-pa-sihk Indian Affairs!!!!”(“Run away Indian Affairs!!!). The guy in the brown-grey suit took one look at my cousin, got in the car and they drove away , all you could see was the dust in the air. When all this excitement was over it was than that my cousin told us that we could have been picked up by the Indian Affairs and taken away. I always think about this and I often think about the guy in the brown-grey suit, because he was a First Nations man.
Once the children were taken away with just the clothes on their backs, they were taken to the social services, the boys had their hair shaved and the girls had bowl cuts – this was to get rid of lice, their clothes were burned and new ones (usually cast offs) were put on them. Than the Social Services would take a picture of the child and placed an ad in the Star-Phoenix Newspaper (Saskatoon, SK) advertising the child’s qualities without mention of the child’s history and race. There were whole families that were apprehended and separated, some adopted out of the province and in some cases out of country. (These ads can be found in the Frances Morrison Library Archives -Newspaper microfiche- 1960 – 1985, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)(there were brochures that were distributed all over the world about the new AIM Program)
It is sad to understand what feelings the parents suffered during these times , many parents died without knowing about their children and many children died without ever knowing thier families again.
This type of forceble adoption and apprehension deserves the same legal practices, apology and payment as the Residential School System as both were developed through the policies of the Canadian Government and Indian Affairs Branch, which devastated the First Nations people and continues to this very day. The policy was designed in conjunction to the assimiliation strategies of the Canadian Government to get rid of First Nations people and their treaty status.