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'There are thousands of us': Sixties Scoop survivor shares story following National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Tauni Sheldon is often referred to as “the picture-perfect baby” with full cheeks, almond-shaped eyes and sporting a frilly white dress.

The image of her as a baby was used in a Toronto newspaper back in 1970, which advertised her to prospective parents.

The 1970 adoption ad for Tauni Sheldon, a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. (Courtesy: Tauni Sheldon)

"I did go to a very loving family, my adoptive family, my adoptive parents,” Sheldon told CTV News. “When they saw my adoption notice in a Toronto telegram, they knew that they wanted to adopt me."

The column was published not long after Sheldon was taken away from her mother on the day she was born.

"So, she held me for three hours knowing that I would be taken away and it took the next 22 years or so to find each other," she said.

She was removed from the remote Inuit community of Inukjuak on Hudson Bay, and ended up being adopted by a family who lived near Milton.

It was part of the Sixties Scoop, where thousands of Indigenous children across Canada were removed by child welfare authorities between 1960 and 1980 to be fostered or adopted.

"I was silenced and I didn't have a way to share my story or the experience of having a family in the south as well as well as meeting my family in the north," said Sheldon.

Ever since, Sheldon has been on a difficult and emotional journey to reconnect with her roots.

"There are thousands of us Inuit, we're part of the Sixties Scoop and Inuit voices, in the way of the Sixties Scoop, have not been fully heard yet," said Sheldon.

It was when she was in her early twenties when Sheldon found and met her birth mother through what was then known as the National Inuit Organization.

Tauni Sheldon (right) with birth parents, Nellie Kumarluk and Etua Inuluk Tukkiapik.

"That was very emotional, we cried together, we hugged each other, we looked at each other,” she said. “I'm built like her in a lot of ways."

She met her birth father shortly after, who later died in 2007. Sheldon says while her father didn’t talk about it often, her family believes he was a survivor of residential schooling.

Tauni Sheldo with birth father, Etua Inuluk Tukkiapik, in Quaqtaq, Nunavik in the 1990s, before he passed away in 2007.

"For Inuit and the government, separations for the Inuit divided all of us," said Sheldon.

Today, Sheldon is happily living with her husband of 20 years and her son near Guelph. 

Her mission now is focusing on the need to connect with the sparse numbers of Inuit in Waterloo Region and Wellington County to further spread the message of reconciliation.

"Reconciliation is possible and our truth still must be heard,” said Sheldon . “I am one Inuk sharing my story while there are thousands of other people out there who have similar stories that also need to be heard."

Sheldon says this year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation has proven that conversations surrounding Canada’s history are being had, but believes much more work needs to be done on a local, provincial and national scale to better support Indigenous communities.

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