Maintaining Identities: The Soul Work of Adoption and Aboriginal Children





Identity formation and preservation are complex issues. The purpose of this article is to explore the importance of identity and adoption for Aboriginal children in Canada. Some of the work has been adapted from a PhD study (Carriere, 2005). The objectives of this study were: (1) to describe how connectedness relates to health for First Nation adoptees, and (2) to explore legislative, policy, and program implications in the adoption of First Nation children. I focused on First Nation children in the province of Alberta, where a provincial policy directive existed that impeded the adoption of First Nation children. The findings of the study suggest that, for First Nation adoptees, a causal relationship exists between connection to birth family, community, and ancestral knowledge, and health. The major finding is that loss of identity may contribute to impaired physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health for First Nation adoptees.

This article is presented from a broader lens that will consider how these findings apply to other Aboriginal populations, such as M├ętis children. This includes an examination of current literature that explores identity for Aboriginal children, including traditional spiritual perspectives on identity formation. The article provides suggestions on how identity can be preserved for adopted Aboriginal children through programs and policies with a focus on practice that honours the holistic development of Aboriginal children. Within this framework for child development, the resilience of children is fostered through a caring network of professional and personal supports.

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