By Kiway Tinway Innine
At the age of 3 years old I came into foster care I was pretty young so it is hard to remember much about that time. But as I grew one thing I do remember was how I felt. Those strong feelings of not fitting in, feeling lost, alone, and like I didn't really belonging. My foster family had 5 biological children of their own. I felt lucky to have been placed with my sister because she was the only thing that was constant at that time in my life. When I was with here there was at least some small sense of belonging because we belonged together as sister and brother. I never felt like I belonged with to my foster family because of indifference, and always being introduced as their foster child. My foster parents were strict and had strong religious values. At an early age I was taught children were only to speak when spoken to, to been seen and not heard, and not to express my feelings. At around the age of 8 I first became aware of having native blood. But did not fully understand what that meant.
At the age of 8 was also when I first started to experiment with alcohol. Alcohol quickly turned into drugs which became my go to, to numb the pain hurt and resentment I felt for not really fitting in or belonging. The feelings of feeling unloved triggered emotions. Like there must be something wrong with me as a child that if I couldn't live with my birth family it must be because I was a bad kid and they didn't love me. Also because of these strong feelings I began to run away and get into trouble. Which led my foster parents to ask for me to be placed elsewhere as they were worried about me all the time.
By the age of 13 I transitioned into a Juvenile detention center and them onto different group homes. At the age of 18, a man from the Church I previously attended with my foster family came to visit me while being incarcerated and offered to help me find my birth parents. I eventually did meet my birth parents at the age of 21. I finally had a sense of belonging that I so much desired, and the answers and closure I needed to come to the understanding of why I had come into care. It wasn't because I was unloved, but because of inter-generational trauma and abuse is the reasons why I was put into foster care. They made the best decision at the time with what they had, trying to stop the cycle of dysfunction while wanting better for my sister and I.
Though meeting my parents brought me a sense of belonging and answers I wished I had, had years earlier. And I did eventually go on to obtain the house, white picket fence, two cars, a beautiful wife and two amazing daughters. It didn't last for long as the alcohol and drugs still had such a strong hold in my life. All of which came spiraling down at the death of my parents. They both past in a span of two years. One would think that by seeing what drugs and alcohol had done to my parent’s life you would think it would have made me want to get off the drugs and alcohol. However, because I had never had a chance to heal those old wounds the death of my parents triggered those old feelings of lost, alone, and abandoned. Because of this I dove deeper into the drugs and alcohol and eventually losing my wife and kids because of it.
Many years later I meant Donna Dubie from Healing of The Seven Generations. Donna made me feel worthy, she made me feel like a sacred part of creation. At this time, I was in a 6 to 8 month treatment program at 174 King. When I had completed the program Donna helped me get into Native Horizons which specialized in trauma release therapy. While at Native Horizons I was able to come to terms with, I was not alone in my trauma, and was able to see there were many others who had been through the same things as me. I learned to heal through traditional teachings, ceremonies, medicines, and prayer. I then went to into Kiikeewanniikaan healing lodge outside of London. Where I was gifted my spirit name KTI from the elder/sweat lodge conductor. While at Kiikee I participated in sweat lodges and life lines, these were way of releasing the pain of my youth in a traditional manner. Donna often says she wished she had a picture of what I looked like when I first came to the Healing of The Seven Generations and a picture of me today. Because the difference in me is so unbelievable.
There has been many people in my life who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. Like Donna Dubie from Healing Of The Seven Generations. And Christina from Anishnabeg Outreach who helped me write one of my first resumes. I now work at House of Friendship, it gives me a sense of belonging while giving back to the community. Today I help others who have been through similar experiences. Life is beautiful. Just because someone stumbles and loses their way doesn't mean they’re are lost forever, sometimes we all need a little help. Today I’m a helper, but to be a helper I first had to help myself.
If asked what aboriginal children and youth in care need from a foster or adoptive family, I would have to say they need a family that is loving and compassionate. They need to be given answers so they can have closure. A family that can give them a sense of belonging while at the same time a sense of identity. By making sure they have people in their life who can help them learn the teachings and ceremonies and who they are as the original people.