Click here to read the stories of "Our Journey"



A Personal Story of a Modern Day Cultural Genocide Survivor

Posted by Cathryn Mahoney on

My name is Wayne William Snellgrove. The story I wish to share with you is about the pain of being stolen from my mother at birth and the harsh reality of being “assimilated” into white culture with damning results. And finally, my story is about meeting my birth mother – a meeting that saved my life and set me on the Red Road of my ancestors.

Wayne William Snellgrove

I was born April 9, 1971 on Fishing Lake First Nations Reserve in Wadena, Saskatchewan (Canada) and was named Dwayne Ivan Smoke. As a modern day genocide survivor of the Canadian government’s policy of assimilation known as The 60's Scoop, I am a two-time USA National swimming champion, USA Swimming National Team member, and a recovering addict and alcoholic.

I was stolen on the day of my birth by the Canadian government child welfare services, unbeknownst to my birth mother, and was placed in a state run orphanage hundreds of miles away. I stayed there for four years until I was adopted – actually purchased – by a white family. It looks like it was a church-run human-trafficking situation. I am still investigating this claim. My adopted family brought me to the United States to their home in State College, Pennsylvania. I had a white adopted brother. This happened during a time when mixed family adoptions were often unheard of. My new family was wonderful to me, but I knew almost immediately that I was different. Not only was I a dark-skinned Cree Indian in a white community, I was born with a cleft palate and developed a stutter when I spoke, which made acceptance and “assimilation” difficult. I was angry without knowing what anger was; I was mourning without realizing it. My first suicide attempt was at age seven. 

I was born with the gift of broad shoulders, a tapered body, long legs and the wingspan of an eagle. My coaches recognized my swimming ability and before long, I was among the top nationally ranked swimmers. I was a successful athlete, although my anger led to depression which led to several suicide attempts and a deep affinity for drugs and alcohol. I had moved to Florida and taken a life-guarding job for the City of Hollywood. My swimming career ended with shoulder injuries and surgery, which led to deeper depression and more suicide attempts.

When my adopted white mother died of cancer when I was in my mid-twenties, I hit an all-time low. It was also a turning point. The loss of not one but two mothers in one lifetime was too much to bear. I set out in earnest to find my birth mother and reunite with my heritage. By this time I had realized that my anger and depression were directly linked to the mother-son bond that the Canadian government stole from us the day of my birth.

I contacted a private investigator who connected with the woman who gave birth to me. Nora Smoke was still living on the same reserve from which I was taken so many years ago. The life altering turning point came when, after flying from Hollywood, Florida to Regina, Saskatchewan, I hugged my mother for the first time. I was 32 years old. Our bond was immediate. In those first few moments my anger, loneliness, and low self-worth disappeared as I reunited with her, the rest of Native family and Native heritage. This was the missing link. This is what I longed for all those suicidal and drug-addled years. I had come full circle.

My mother had her own stories to tell. She was burdened with 30 something years of not knowing if I was alive or dead. She struggled with her own guilt of not being able to protect me, but she never gave up hope and she never stopped loving me. She too was destroyed emotionally and physically by the genocidal practices of the Canadian Government. It was during my 10-day visit that I learned I was not alone in my suffering. I learned about my mother’s years of rape and torture during her years attending the church-run Indian residential schools long before I was born. I learned that my sisters and brothers suffered the same fate. This was generational genocide. They all had similar stories to tell.

Soon after meeting my birth mother and the rest of my Native family, I began walking the Red Road to freedom. I am also on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. As a Red Road warrior, I bring peace, love and understanding to life’s circumstances. I regularly attend Native American ceremony and am a fire-keeper at Native sweat lodges. I also bring Native ceremony and tradition to Native inmates in Florida’s state and federal prison system. I write, paint, talk, pray and live the Red Road way, thanks to that initial meeting with my mother, with whom I am still in contact.

This is my story and it needs to be told. I am only one of the thousands of children who either survived or didn’t survive the Canadian government’s past genocidal practices. I’m one of the lucky ones. Out of the thousands of children taken from my reserve, I was one of a handful to return. My story brings hope to those still trying to make sense out of the betrayal of the Native people by the government.

Source: https://iloveancestry.com/personal-stories-modern-day-cultural-genocide-survivor/ Permission granted by Wayne William Snellgrove to share his story on www.harmony4souls.com.

N.B. please visit this site for further information and stories: www.harmony4souls.com  If you would like your story published please post your request on our Contact page.

 

 

3 comments


  • Thank you Celeste and Margaret for sharing your own experiences. I am the Co-owner, Author and Moderator of this website (in partnership with my husband Mike). We are happy to share other people’s stories (we will moderate them first before publishing them). We are both experienced therapists, healers and teachers and wish to raise awareness of injustices and abusive practices which have occurred within indigenous communities, affecting the mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of individuals and families. We also raise awareness of spiritual awakening and encouraging people to unite in their experiences. We have been called by the Great Spirit to assist in raising the vibrations of love, peace and harmony among nations.

    Cathryn Mahoney on

  • I TOO HAVE HAD PROBLEMS WITH DRUGS AND ALCOHOL. I HAVE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE MANY TIMES. MY YOUNGER BROTHER DID. I HAVE CHOSEN THE ROAD I WANT TO WALK BUT I DON’T FEEL AS IF I AM GOOD ENOUGH. I KNOW MY CREATOR HAS SOMETHING HE WANTS ME TO DO. WE NEVER FELT A TRUE FAMILY LOVE BECAUSE IT ALWAYS SEEMED THAT THE ONES WHO TOOK US IN WERE BURDENED WITH US. WE WERE NEVER ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT OUR HERITAGE. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE. MAY OUR CREATOR SEND BLESSINGS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

    CELESTE SMITH on

  • My story when I filled out the form I couldn’t write my story too much anxiety,I left it blank wish I shared it now. I was put in a white foster home just for the weekend the social worker told her ,we were there for years,I and my older sister . Her daughter came first, if we did anything wrong we got spanked with a broken broom handle which left welts,if we didn’t cry she kept spanking until we did, she drank when she was drunk on her red wine she would pull us backwards by our hair if we did something wrong and smacked us around. It’s so hard to look back and think of this but in the end I must say she hated natives and we were placed there for just the weekend( I wish it was just the weekend) but stayed there from the time I was 5 > 15/16 .

    MArgaret BIlly on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published