Abstract: This study used life experience methods to gather the narratives of seven adult Indigenous transracial adoptees who have reclaimed their Indigenous identities after experiencing closed adoption during the late 1950s through to the early 1980s. Participants had been members of Aboriginal (First Nations, Metis, Inuit) communities at birth but were then raised outside their Indigenous nations in non-Indigenous families. Through analysis of their stories, I identified four themes that marked their trajectories to reclamation: Imposed fracture (prior to reclamation); Little anchors (beginning healing); Coming home (on being whole); Our sacred bundle (reconciling imposed fracture). Their stories of reconnecting to their Indigeneity, decolonizing and healing illustrate their shifts from hegemonic discourse spaces that characterized their lived experiences as “other” to spirit-based discourses that center Indigenous knowledge systems as valid, life affirming, and life changing. This dissertation contributes to the debate on state sanctioned removal of children and the impacts of loss of Indigenous identity in Canadian society. My findings indicate that cultural and spiritual teachings and practices, as well as, the knowledge of colonization and its impacts on Indigenous families, communities, and nations, all contributed to adoptees’ healing and ability to move forward in their lives. Key recommendations include: further exploration of the concept of cultural genocide in relation to settler-colonial relations in Canada; further examination of the intersection of counter-narratives, resistance discourse, and colonial violence; increased investigation of the connections between Indigenous knowledge systems, living spirit-based teachings and educative aspects of community wellness; and more research examining education beyond formal schooling, including the formative effects upon Indigenous youth of social values, public policy, and legal frameworks.

Abstract: This dissertation examines the role of Roman Catholicism in the process by which Irish Catholics integrated into Upper Canadian society in the first half of the nineteenth-century. For Upper Canadian Irish Catholics, Roman Catholicism was a “settling” force. In addition to providing familiar spiritual succor to individual migrants, religion provided order, organization, and focus to individual settlement and was the point upon which community-building efforts were frequently centred. But the Roman Catholicism of the Irish in Upper Canada was also “unsettling.” It was perceived by the dominant Protestant society as a key element in the inappropriate cultural baggage with which Irish Catholic migrants travelled, it was a barrier to political power and social advancement, and was believed to be at the root of violence and anti-social behaviour attributed to the Irish in the period. Despite repeated demonstrations of loyalty and good intentions in perpetuating the British connection on the part of the province’s Irish Catholic population, persistent and preexisting prejudices about Ireland and the politics, motivations, and abilities of Roman Catholic Irish, meant that population persisted as an outlier in colonial society.

The local orientation and scope of Roman Catholicism amongst Irish settlers in Upper Canada challenges the transnational emphasis in the current historiography of Irish Roman Catholicism and offers an offers an additional model to the process by which the Irish came to dominate the English-speaking Roman Catholic Church. In Upper Canada, the extra-institutional migration of clergy and lay people, and the community-oriented religious practice at the mission and parish level was vital to the progress of Catholicism in the colony. Consequently the diocese of Kingston and the Upper Canadian context demonstrate the extent to which the influence of the Irish on the progress of Catholicism in the English-speaking settler world must include the local as well as transnational contexts.

Abstract: The Canadian child welfare system perpetuates deeply colonial relations. Indigenous children are being removed en masse, die at exceptionally high rates in the system, and the child welfare personnel is primarily drawn from the white settler society. This dissertation seeks to find answers to the question of how this present-day reality came to be and how Indigenous child removal can continue so vigorously.

This dissertation is a genealogical inquiry into the beginnings and development of the Canadian child welfare system. Through extensive archival research, it traces how this institutional framework re-articulates relations of coloniality – relations through which Indigenous peoples are rendered subjects to be managed and white settlers are re-inscribed as dominant, superior, and – despite the enormous violence that underpins their subject positions – as ‘caring’.

This dissertation advances the argument that the management of childhood is of central concern to the colonial/racial state. Child welfare emerged as an imperial project, for the purpose of white settler colonial nation-building. Animated by a colonial concern that the white race be preserved, early child-rescue initiatives focused on ‘saving’/managing the damaged but salvageable white settler child. These children were to be prevented from ‘sinking’ to the level of the Indian or racial Other, and molded into useful citizens for the white settler colony.

At the turn of twentieth century, Indigenous children were rendered extraneous to the emerging field of child welfare. State interest in the Indigenous child was an annihilative and carceral interest, animated by the idea that Indigenous children had to be removed and contained in institutions (i.e. Indian Residential Schools). While Indian Residential Schools were eventually phased out, the colonizers’ focus on Indigenous child removal remained. Indigenous child removal emerged as a central modality of colonial power, the intent of which was to effect Indigenous erasure and dispossession for the proliferation of the settler colony. This modality of power continues through the child welfare system today, sustaining the settler society’s annihilative and accumulative impulse, continuing to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands and sovereignty.

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