‘It breaks my heart to think that they can pay these people all kinds of money to care for children that aren’t theirs,’ said Brenda Greyeyes, a Sixties Scoop survivor featured in the film. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)
(CBC) June 30, 2023 — Brenda Greyeyes was five years old when police took her and her siblings from their family.

It was 1980, and she and her younger sister and brother were outside playing at a Winnipeg park across the street from their home, but someone had called the police because they were playing alone.

“They took us, and my mom tried her best to get us back,” said Greyeyes, a Sixties Scoop survivor from Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, located in southern Manitoba. “They had so many hoops that you had to jump through.”

She and her siblings were placed with a foster family, Greyeyes said. They were raised in a German Lutheran home that taught her nothing about her cultural roots.

“They were very loving and caring people, but they were not my family,” Greyeyes said.

Greyeyes and stories like hers are featured in the new documentary, Coming Home (Wanna Icipus Kupi), which was screened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Thursday.

The documentary premieres Friday on Crave, as a companion piece to the series finale of Little Bird, which will be streamed on Crave the same day.

“The child welfare system has been part of the cultural genocide for years,” said Greyeyes, who was at a panel discussion after the screening Thursday.

She said she hopes the film helps raise awareness about Canada’s troubled child welfare system and the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care.

“I just want people to be aware of what’s happened to our people, and it didn’t start with the child welfare system, it started long before that with residential school,” she said.

“It breaks my heart to think that they can pay these people all kinds of money to care for children that aren’t theirs.”

‘Identity crisis’

Greyeyes moved back to Brokenhead from Edmonton about seven years ago, after she realized how little her son knew about his extended family.

“I just thought, ‘What the heck am I doing in Edmonton? Like, why am I even here? I should go home,'” she said. “My kid doesn’t even know that he has family. And, like, I grew up like that, not knowing who my family was, right? And not having that connection.”

But when Greyeyes moved back, she said it was a culture shock.

“I always thought I knew who I was as a young adult growing up in a Christian home, but then when I learned about our history and just what’s happened to our people, I had an identity crisis,” she said.

“I didn’t know anything about our customs or culture, any of it,” she added. “I was angry and I was hurt for quite a while.”

Coming Home is the first feature documentary Erica Daniels has directed. (Shyan Johnson Monkman)

It’s stories like these that Erica Daniels, the director of the film, thinks haven’t been told enough.

“A lot of people know about residential schools, but people don’t realize that there’s more. There’s the Sixties Scoop, there’s the current child welfare system that Indigenous people are faced with,” said Daniels, a Cree/Ojibway filmmaker from Peguis First Nation.

Coming Home is Daniels’ first feature documentary. She said another topic explored in the film is Indigenous narrative sovereignty, which highlights the importance of Indigenous people sharing their own stories from their perspectives.

“We’re in a movement right now of, you know, Indigenous storytellers stepping up and taking on that important role because sharing a story for us is truly healing,” she said.

For Greyeyes, she wants others like her to know that their families are out there missing them. 
“I just want people to know that we are all family and it doesn’t matter when you decide to come home, just come home and there will be family there waiting for you.”

With files from Alana Cole and Faith Fundal