November 8, 2013

Friday good. Cool again here at -10 but should get above zeeroo by early afternoon. Nice light.

Not too much to report here. We watched a somewhat interesting documentary on the effects of Canada’s aggressive program in the 1960’s and 70’s to take Indian children from their dysfunctional parents and adopt them out to white families. The film is called To Return: The John Walkus Story, issued in 2000. Walkus was taken from his alcoholic mother and raised by a white couple. Even though his adoptive parents were supportive, it was difficult for Walkus to relate to white culture. He found solace in art, which his adoptive parents encouraged. After graduating from high school he returned to his home village on the British Columbia coast, where he found his place making ceremonial masks, totem poles, and paintings.

Walkus became well known in Canada for his carving and painting, and his skill helped greatly as he tried to reintegrate into Native culture. Other returnees are interviewed in the film who had a harder time making the transition. One young man told how he and his three siblings were found starving and cold in the car their mother abandoned while drunk. He was sent to a farm and it sounds like the foster parents were clueless about supporting Native connections for the boy. They “kidded” him that his darker skin was just dirty, which is the sort of casual cruelty unthinking people dispense.

The film is pretty thought provoking, but it should probably have been longer and have included more footage of the adoptive parents, some of whom were pretty good parents who got no support, as they complained several times, from the Canadian government to help the Native children adapt and flourish. Also, the focus on John Walkus with his great talent tends to overshadow the less fulfilling plight of others who shared his experience. From the public library. One of Walkus’s pieces—

Raven Walkus

John Walkus presenting a ceremonial raven mask to an elder


Comments are closed.