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Child Welfare Neglected

Loretta Nighttraveller

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE/JULY 1980      v10 n6&7 p22  
Figures released by the Saskatoon Department of Social Services indicate that in Saskatchewan over 60 per cent of the 2,401 children in provincial social service care are status and non-status Indians.

In the Saskatoon area, there are 128 status and 121 non-status Indian children in foster homes, childcare institutions, and group homes.

There are 120 foster homes in the Saskatoon area, but only 12 are status Indian homes and of those only three care for status Indian children.

The question Indian leaders are asking is: "Where have the other children gone?" At the national chiefs' conference, in April, Chief John Christian, told elders and chiefs that the provincial welfare systems are committing genocide on Indian children by taking them off reserves and forcing them to grow up as whites.

To confront this genocide, the chiefs of Canada have resolved to support the Canadian Indian Lawyers Association in seeking control of welfare matters that affect the survival of the Indian culture.

Speakers and panelists at the national chiefs' conference spoke positively of improving the welfare system by involving Indian people as resource people, foster parents and counsellors.

They asked that emergency childcare institutions be stationed on and off reserves, and that in adoption, priority be given to family members adopting children, and secondly, to Indian homes adopting Indian children, before non-Indians are given the opportunity to adopt.

The Canadian Indian Lawyers Association, at their first national conference held in April, stated that drastic changes must be made within the present welfare system.

The provincial government has neglected to act, under reserve jurisdiction, unless a life or death situation occurs. The present system extracts the cultural roots of the Indian child by placing him in a non-Indian home. The child loses his culture, language, and traditions.

Vital Statistics for the Registered Indian Population of Saskatchewan (1977) shows that of the 295 Indian people, who died in Saskatchewan, 50 per cent died before they reached the age of 25. The FSI Research Department firmly believes that a strong feeling of alienation and anomie is a major causal factor in the deaths of these young Indian people.

Consequently, there has to be child welfare education as proposed by the chiefs of Canada at their first national conference. A search for, and implementation of, a system that will ensure children, in the care of welfare agencies, that they will not have to sacrifice their cultural identities, must be made.

In the mean time, to prevent this genocide, you, the reader, should consider opening your home to the enjoyment and pleasure of an Indian child in need.