Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores the making and unmaking of Indigenous kinship in the context of ongoing and disproportionate Indigenous child removal in the lands commonly known as ‘Canada’. Though there are many studies demonstrating the negative consequences of child removal on Indigenous families, there is surprisingly little research examining existing community-based efforts to resist child removal and preserve kin. While the Canadian government’s proposed solutions to the so-called “Indigenous child welfare crisis” ask how the existing system can “better” meet the needs of Indigenous families, the focus on “repair” and “reunification” take intervention and extraction as a fact, re-centering models that were created with the explicit intention of disrupting Indigenous kin. Through their emphasis on unifying the biological family, these solutions function to uplift and uphold notions of biological and racial purity and Indigenous containment, distorting Indigenous values of relationality manifested beyond blood-lines and state-lines. Furthermore, these proposed solutions further entrench the ideological supremacy of the nuclear family over communities of kin, pathologizing Indigenous parents as “unfit” caregivers if they are unable to meet these standards. Based on community-based research with urban Indigenous families navigating the child welfare system in Victoria, B.C., I reveal how Indigenous peoples are creatively reconstituting ancestral kinship practices and responsibilities to fit with the current realities of urban life. I demonstrate how the making of kin constitutes an “everyday act of resurgence” by transgressing settler-imposed boundaries around “nation” and “family”, and re-centering webs of self-determined relations to land, community, and spirit that secure Indigenous well-being.