Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm on“Nimkii,” and the History of Indigenous Children in Foster Care

Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri
Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm
 is the author of “Nimkii,” a story in the anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold. The story features illustrations by Ryan Howe and Jen Storm, and colour art by Donovan Yaciuk. In her author statement below, Kateri shares the stories that inspired “Nimkii,” and the personal connection that runs throughout. 

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“Nimkii” was inspired by the lives of a few specific children in care, the shocking statistics about Indigenous children in the system, and my own experience as an adoptive mother. In the late 1980s, I watched Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary Richard Cardinal: Cry from the Diary of a Metis Child about a boy who took his own life after being placed in 28 different foster homes during his 14 years “in care.” Richard’s story lodged itself in my heart, changing the way I understood Indigenous history and what it means to be “in care.” I resolved to adopt when I started a family. Later I heard about Teddy Bellingham, an Anishinaabe “Crown Ward” with roots in my community, who was brutally murdered in Smith Falls, Ontario. I learned about the Sixties Scoop and its devastating impacts on children, families, and communities, many of whom fought to bring their children home. When I eventually started my family, I did adopt. I have two beautiful, smart, loving, Anishinaabe boys who are the loves of my life, my family, my joy. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are many other children, just as beautiful and deserving of love, who languish in the system, neglected, abused, placed in homes where they are simply a “meal ticket” or a “good deed,” pawns in a power game by CFS workers and agencies exerting their control over Indigenous lives. There are Indigenous children “in care” who develop lifelong attachment issues, with no one to care or advocate for them, exposed to crime and addictions, taught to hate their Indigeneity. Of course, some Indigenous children are adopted into families bonded by love, respect, and caring. Some are fostered with kindness. Some thrive despite the system. They too inspire me and deserve to be celebrated. With “Nimkii,” I have done my best to tell a story that lovingly honours all of these children.

– Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm

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Watch Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Métis Child, the powerful 1984 documentary film by Alanis Obomsawin that inspired “Nimkii”.

Looking for more information on the Sixties Scoop, or wanting to get involved? Check out the Métis National Council’s portal site.

Want to read “Nimkii” for yourself?  Pre-order This Place: 150 Years Retold today.

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Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are a wild ride through magic realism, serial killings, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Featuring Stories By: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, and Chelsea Vowel

Illustrated By: Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, and Jen Storm

Colour By: Scott A. Ford and Donovan Yaciuk

 

CCA_NewChapter_logo_transparent-eThis is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

 

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