Still stealing children (and still resisting): Erika Finestone, Making Kin / Unmaking the Colony: Indigenous Refusal in the Era of Colonial Child Removal, PhD dissertation, University of Toronto, 2022


Abstract: The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s primary “call to action” is to reduce the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care in this country. Yet, Indigenous children continue to be apprehended into the child welfare system at rates three times higher than at the peak of the Indian Residential School period (1831-1996). Though there is increasing research on the negative impacts of child removal on Indigenous children, families, and communities there is less research that records and analyzes existing community-based and institutional strategies that prevent, resist, or refuse child welfare interventions broadly and child removal specifically. In partnership with Indigenous caregivers on Vancouver Island, and using a combination of ethnographic and participatory action research methodologies, my dissertation aims to answer one key question: In the context of ongoing and disproportionate colonial child removal, how do Indigenous peoples make and maintain kin? This dissertation foregrounds Indigenous scholarship on refusal, resistance, and resurgence, as well as anthropological analyses of kinship and relationality to answer this question, demonstrating how Indigenous communities reconstitute ancestral care roles, resist colonial extraction, build relational solidarities, and affirm their self-determination despite ongoing colonial interference into the realm of the family. By focusing on Indigenous peoples’ resistance and resilience within the system, this research talks back to a problematic narrative of Indigenous victimhood, illuminating the creative and strategic ways Indigenous caregivers and providers sustain kin both within and on the margins of the settler state.

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