Ar(t)chives Arts

The displacement and forced assimilation of thousands of children in North America: Daughter of a Lost Bird film review

The film explores the ongoing cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples specifically through adoption policies

The feature documentary Daughter of a Lost Bird, directed by Brooke Pepion Swaney,  centers the story of Kendra Potter as she reconnects with her biological mother. Growing up in a white family with a white culture, she knew she was adopted, but it was only later in life that she learned she had native blood. 

Daughter of a Lost Bird is Swaney’s first feature documentary. She is from the Blackfeet nation, which was cut off from the border forming process. Swaney is most known for helping produce the first season of the All My Relations podcast, along with Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keene. 

The term “Lost Bird” refers to native children that were adopted out of their nations, mostly by force, and never returned.

This film explores Potter’s search for her mother, understanding the forced adoption of her mother, and coming to terms that she is a direct product of forced assimilation in the ongoing cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples across Canada and the US. 

“When someone says you are Lummi, I can’t wrap my mind around that, I don’t know what that means,” states April, Kendra’s mother in the film. She was raised far from her nation, so though she finds identity in being Lummi she cannot quite comprehend it. 

The film took seven years to make, between concretely finding Potter’s mother April, breaks for mental health, and the actual shooting of the film. 

Though the film is set in what is known as the US, adoption policies and methods of Indigenous erasure were very similar to those that transpire in Canada. 

The Q&A was composed of the Swaney and Na’kuset. Na’kuset has been the executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal since 1999, and is from Saskatchewan, Treaty 6. 

Q&A of Brooke Swaney Pepion and Na’kuset, MEG ACOSTA/@city__ghost)

“Because it’s an American film, the assimilation policy that they had was named differently than it is in Canada, but the harm is the same,” Na’kuset noted. 

The assimilation of Indigenous peoples in Canada was known under the name of the Adopt Indian and Métis Project (AIM) project. On record, there were 20,000 children displaced, but as noted by Na’kuset, “the numbers are larger than that.” 

Swaney and Potter met when Potter was cast as an actress in one of Swaney’s films. It was through learning more about her adoption story and the policies of forced assimilation that Swaney wanted to produce a documentary film about Potter’s life. 

It is noticeable that Potter is a capable actress in certain scenes, as she is very comfortable as she stares directly at the camera. This has the effect that the audience almost feels like she is seeing past the camera, past the spectators, as if daring the audience to judge her.  

It’s in moments of reunification with her mom that the audience feels they are seeing a real version of Potter. She is not as aware of the camera in scenes reuniting with family members she’s meeting for the first time. 

When moving back to Montana after finishing her studies in New York, the filmmaker was able to reconnect with her family. 

“My mom and I grew up off-reservation, it was nice to come home, but also complicated; I have family members who are struggling with addiction, and I have nieces and nephews who are out there in foster care.”

Moving back to Montana let Swaney gain the knowledge that, “all of these topics are close to every Indigenous person, it’s not one’s own personal experience.” It’s a series of colonial policies that have constantly tried to erase and assimilate Indigenous folks. 

This film served to raise awareness about adoption programs in the US, and their direct impact on people’s identities and cultural losses. 

Crowd at Cinema Politica screening, DAVID BEAUDOIN/ @3.2.888

“Where I feel like there’s a huge difference is between our societies, is the native voices are so much more present and louder in Canada than in the States.”

Swaney’s commentary throughout the film provides context to the story. She comments on her discomfort at times of almost projecting what she wants Potter to feel with her mother. She ends the film by stating that Daughter of a Lost Bird is ultimately Potter’s story. 

In her closing notes, Na’kuset discusses one of the projects Native Montreal is working on. It’s a new project for housing women that seeks to offer supportive housing. In relating it to the film, she says: 

“This is how we get our children back.” By supporting native women who need housing, there is the possibility to return forcibly adopted children to their families and cultures. 

Briefs News

World in Brief: COVID-19, avalanche in Austria, at least ten dead in Quanzhou hotel collapse

As COVID-19 cases keep rising in the United States, health officials warned older individuals to avoid large gathering places and travelling on planes. Reuters confirmed that the number of cases was nearing 550 with 22 deaths on Sunday in the US alone. New measures were implemented in European countries as well; with Italy having the second-most cases of COVID-19 after China, the government quarantined nearly a quarter of its population. This weekend saw 133 new deaths in Italy alone, reported the Agence France Presse. France also banned gatherings of 1,000 people or more as yet another preventative measure to counter the spread of the virus. The first death in Africa was also reported last weekend. In Canada, there are 31 cases in Ontario, 27 in British Columbia, three in Quebec, and the first case in Alberta, as of Sunday.

Two avalanches in the Austrian alps killed at least six last Sunday. Five individuals who were believed to be Czech died during a snowshoeing trip while a 33-year-old police officer died in a separate incident, presumably while doing training. Around 100 rescuers were sent to the sites by helicopter. Both avalanches happened in the Dachstein mountain range, around 80 kilometres south-east of Salzburg.

At least 10 people died last Sunday in a hotel in China that was used as an isolation hub for people infected by COVID-19. The seven-story building located in the southeast city of Quanzhou suddenly collapsed, trapping 71 people in the ruins. China’s Ministry of Emergency Management reported that 38 individuals had been rescued and 23 were still missing. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation but the CBC reported that the building was undergoing construction and a pillar was reportedly deformed a few minutes before the incident.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: Another win for Bernie Sanders, COVID-19 shuts down northern Italian cities, bees in California, fatal earthquake in Turkey.

Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucus on Saturday Feb. 22, continuing his Democratic lead after the third primary contest. With strong support from the Latino voters in the Nevada caucus, Sanders finished with 47 per cent, reported The Guardian. Joe Biden took second place, at 24 per cent. Buttigieg was third, with 14 per cent. Elizabeth Warren was fourth, with 9 per cent. Next up for the democrats, the South Carolina race.

There have been two deaths in Italy as a result of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), with seventy-nine confirmed cases of the virus. A dozen towns in northern Italy have shut down as a result. The origin of the virus in Italy, has been linked to a man who hadn’t travelled to Wuhan. Those who died were a man and woman in their 70s, though it has not yet been confirmed whether the woman died from the virus or an underlying health problem. Towns affected in Italy have closed schools, businesses, restaurants and sporting events, reports The Associated Press.

A swarm of 40,000 bees shut down a California block, sending five people to the hospital, including three first responders last Thursday. Firefighters and police responded to a call for a single bee sting, soon realizing that an entire block had been covered with bees. The bees had stung seven people, two did not need hospital treatment. One firefighter had been stung 17 times. Firefighters and a professional beekeeper were able to safely remove the hive situated on the roof of a Hampton Inn. Some of the bees were killed, while others left the area, as reported by CNN.

Nine people were killed by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey on Sunday morning. The earthquake also struck western Iran, injuring 75 people, with no reported fatalities. Turkish Health Minister, Fahrettin Koca, said that 37 people had been injured and nine are in critical condition. The earthquake also affected 43 villages in Turkey’s mountainous regions. Twenty-five ambulances, a helicopter and 13 emergency teams have been sent to aid the public. The Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) of Turkey has said 144 tents for families had been set up, reported The Associated Press.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Poli SAVVY: Is pushing for traditional values in a modern world the way to leadership?

BREAKING NEWS: There are still entitled men in politics.

On one side, we have potential Conservative candidate for the leadership, Richard Décarie who, during an interview with CTVs Power Play on Wednesday, said “LGBTQ” “is a Liberal term” and that being gay “is a choice.” He then said Canadians must encourage traditional values that have served us in the past, encouraging the defunding of abortion services and reinforcing the idea that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Then, on Friday, not too far from us, Trump became the first U.S. President to walk in the largest annual anti-abortion rally, the 47th March for Life in Washington.

I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was the 18th century?

While Trump’s decision might actually help him win the 2020 election, as a big part of his electoral voters are evangelical Christians who stand firmly against abortion, a Pew Research Centre survey conducted in the summer revealed that 61 per cent of Americans believe abortion should be legal and are concerned that some states are making it hard to access.

And over here, Décarie just gave a quick crash course on “how to lose an election in Canada.”

Federal elections have displayed over and over again that the Conservatives’ weak spots are their social values being out of tune with Canadian ones. More recently, Scheer’s stance on such topics hasn’t quite helped him win voters––au contraire.

A few Tories, such as frontrunner for leadership Peter Mackay, were quick to denounce the comments on Twitter. Still, Décarie’s reductive and ignorant remarks highlight exactly how replacing Scheer won’t necessarily erase the mentality that runs deep within the Conservative Party. Last October, in a post-election analysis, the co-founder of the anti-abortion group RightNow, Alissa Golob, proudly said they were able to elect at least 68 “pro-lifers” out of the 121 current members of the Conservative caucus.

What’s that expression again? Beware of who’s pulling the strings. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: de-escalation, volcano, false alarms

President Hassan Rouhani announced Iran’s intentions to de-escalate from long-lasting tensions with the US last Sunday. Rouhani met with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to conclude de-escalation was the only solution for the wellbeing of the region. “We’ve decided to have more consultations and cooperation for the security of the entire region,” said Rouhani, according to the Agence France Presse

Qatar diplomatically rests uncomfortably between Iran and the US with the largest American military base in the region as well as strong relations with Iran. This comes shortly after high-ranking Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was shot down by a US-led drone attack and a Ukranian Airlines airplane crashed near Tehran after takeoff. It was confirmed the plane had been “mistakenly” taken down by an Iranian missile.

A small volcano near Philippines’s capital Manila erupted on Sunday. The eruption was ranked at a danger level of four, five being the highest ranking. The eruption ejected dust and pebbles 10 to 15 kilometres into the sky. Ash quickly covered the runways at Manila’s international airport, grounding all domestic flights. The eruption was followed by a series of earthquakes, reported the authorities, who rushed to evacuate nearly 300,000 people in the region, reported the Associated Press. The volcano was famous among tourists for its breathtaking scenery.

An alert about the Pickering Nuclear Generation Plant was sent out on Sunday morning. It was soon found to be a mistake during a routine training exercise conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, reported CBC. It was only two hours later that a second alert was sent out to reassure the public about the incident. The nuclear plant is located east of Toronto. Emergency Management Ontario will conduct a thorough investigation to find out who was responsible for the alert.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: political turmoil in the Middle East, deadly wildfires

Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US-led drone strike near Baghdad’s airport last Friday, reported the New York Times. Since Soleimani’s death, the Iranian government announced its intentions of ending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal, raising fear all over the world and the new #WW3 storming Twitter. Escalations also reached Iraq, with the government calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops amid Soleimani’s death. There are currently about 5,000 US troops on Iraqi soil. While seen as a hero by many in Iran, Soleimani was listed as a terrorist by the US. In a statement, the Pentagon accused Soleimani of planning terrorist attacks on the US and approving an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad last week.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to Israel as a nuclear power in a slip of the tongue during a weekly cabinet meeting about a subsea pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus. Netanyahu said “the significance of this project is that we are turning Israel into a nuclear power,” he then paused, acknowledged his mistake with a shy smile before correcting his statement to “energy power,” reported Reuters. Israel has been long-denying the possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Ongoing wildfires ravage Australia despite large efforts to tame the blaze. Since September, five million hectares of land have been destroyed killing 23 as of Jan. 4, reported Global News. Efforts from Australian forces and other countries like Canada have been fighting the flames. The causes of the fires are still unclear, but officials are pointing fingers to the extreme temperature, drought, and human activity. A 19-year-old was arrested on suspicion of arson. The individual was charged with seven counts of setting fire.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


World in Brief: Shooting, whistleblowers and deadly protests

Four people were killed and five injured in a shooting last Sunday in Kansas City. Police said the two suspects opened fired in a busy bar around 1:27 a.m. following a disturbance or fight. According to an article in The Washington Post, the four victims were all Hispanic men, but the police refused to add further comments.

A second whistleblower surfaced on Sunday morning supporting previous allegations on Donald Trump’s exchanges with Ukraine’s president. While they haven’t filed a complaint with the inspector general, attorney Mark Zaid said in an interview with the Associated Press that the whistleblower has “firsthand knowledge that supported” the original claims.

Protest in Iraq over unemployment and corruption are still raging since Oct. 1. The death toll was estimated at 106 on Sunday – five days after the first confrontations between the police and protesters. According to an article in Reuters, the Iraqi government agreed to a plan that increases subsidized housing for the poor, stipends for the unemployed and training programs and small loans initiatives for unemployed youth.

Protesters in Hong Kong defied the law prohibiting marching with a masked face. According to an article in the Agence France Presse, the crowds were “condemning the government for deploying emergency powers to ban face masks at public gatherings.” What started as a peaceful march quickly turned into violent confrontations as police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and physical force.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: September 3

Eight people were killed and 22 injured in a shooting Saturday in West Texas, including the gunman. The 30-year-old suspect was known to local police. According to Reuters, the suspect stole a postal van before opening fire on police officers and civilians. Shortly after, he was shot down by the police.

Hurricane Dorian has intensified to a category five storm as it approached the Abaco Islands on Sunday. The hurricane’s sustained winds have increased from 240 km/h to 290 km/h after landfall in the Bahamas archipelago, according to the National Hurricane Center. Many U.S. coastal dwellers from Florida to California are concerned with potential risks of damaging winds and deadly flooding even if the storm doesn’t directly hit the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked for Poland’s forgiveness for Nazi “tyranny” during World War II. The apology occurred on Sunday, in the city of Wielun, 80 years after the bombing of the city, according to the BBC. The small city, located 250 km West of Warsaw, was bombed by the German Air Force on Sept. 1, 1939, marking the beginning of the most devastating war of our era.

Anthoine Hubert, a French 22-year-old Formula 2 pilot, died last Saturday in a fatal crash during a race on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Since 1994, a lot of progress in terms of security made it possible for pilots to survive the most fatal crashes. However, according to the Agence France Presse, Hubert’s vehicle literally split in half. French flags were put up across the stadium and a minute of silence was held before the start of Sunday’s race in honour of Hubert.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Exit mobile version