University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Award-winning project tells stories of indigenous children in care

City of Calgary recognizes masters’ anthropology student with Chief David Crowchild Memorial award
June 30, 2015
Daniela Navia's research was inspired by her own experiences at the age of 11 as a newcomer to Canada.

Daniela Navia's research was inspired by her own experiences at the age of 11 as a newcomer to Canada.

There are 30,000 indigenous children in government care today — triple the number of children housed at the peak of Canada’s notorious residential schools — and a project that gathered some of their stories has won a prestigious award.

The City of Calgary awarded Daniela Navia the David Crowchild Memorial Award for her research project, Uncovering Colonial Legacies: Voices of Indigenous Youth in Child Welfare (dis)Placements.

The master's student in anthropology in the Faculty of Arts worked with the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth to reach 20 young indigenous people in Calgary who have had experiences in care. “They shared stories in different ways,” she says. “Some participated in oral storytelling and some participated just through art and many did both.” The art included a graffiti-styled painting representing sobriety and a beaded boom box necklace to remember a brother who died in care. The youth participated in events that targeted both indigenous and non-indigenous audiences to talk about the child welfare system.

“Everybody had a very strong attachment to really talking about how the story of colonialism is not over,” says Navia. “What we’re seeing is that a lot of the youth who have been in the child welfare system are distanced from their families, from their culture and from their community, all under the guise of being helped.”

Navia and her family moved to Canada from Colombia when she was 11 and the difficulties they faced in a new country led to her interest in studying displaced and oppressed peoples and work that “bridges the gap between displaced communities.”

When she started the project a year ago, she found indigenous communities are working together to try to keep their children from going into government care. “Reconciliation can’t really begin until we recognize what’s currently going on,” she says. “Seven out of ten of the kids in child welfare in Alberta are indigenous.”

The annual Crowchild award recognizes a person or organization that has made an impact in Calgary that benefits indigenous communities. Navia is both honoured and humbled to receive the award as part of the project.

“This project is a collaborative effort that addresses difficult issues of ongoing injustice and the recognition of this work signals to us that there is a commitment to create a better future.” she says.” It means that youth's strength, courage and creativity is being recognized and that their voices are being heard.”