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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Adoption in the Seabird Island Band Nordlund, Elizabeth Anne


In the past, the Ministry of Social Services and Housing has placed many native children from the Seabird Island Band, a Salish band in the Sta’lo Nation, in permanent placement or adoption off the reserve. Government agencies imposed a system of child welfare that superseded Seabird Island adoption practices. The Seabird Island Band members would prefer to see these children placed within the band through ‘custom’ adoption. In apprehension and placement court cases, the band social worker has needed documented information defining ‘custom’ adoption, and data regarding the benefits of this Seabird Island process. This thesis investigates and documents the process and results of adoption on the Seabird Island Indian Reserve. This thesis begins with a brief history of Canadian adoption policy as it applies to First Nations people. The thesis is based on detailed taped interviews with Seabird Island Band members who had experienced foster care and/or adoption. This fieldwork was the result of negotiation with the Seabird Island Band to discover the type of research that they needed. The thesis documents four kinds of adoption experience of the Seabird Island members: foster care, closed legal adoption, open adoption, and ‘custom’ adoption. In my analysis of these adoption experiences, three main themes occur: (1) issues of ethnic identity, (2) power and the child welfare system, and (3) the definition and functions of ‘custom’ adoption. The thesis concludes that the imposed system of child welfare based on Euro-western ideas of appropriate child care may have destroyed or seriously damaged some Seabird Island Band members’ sense of ethnic identity. As well, it may be a factor in the break-up of the extended family. ‘Custom’ adoption, as defined by Seabird Island Band members, offers an alternate model for keeping apprehended Seabird Island children within the band. Open adoption, as defined by the pilot project documented, is an alternative for those children who cannot be returned to the band. I have made several recommendations in the conclusion for the Seabird Island Band’s consideration.

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