Where do we go from here? Ongoing colonialism from Attachment Theory

Peter W. Choate, Brandy CrazyBull, Desi Lindstrom, Gabrielle Lindstrom


INTRODUCTION: The article challenges the current interpretation of Attachment Theory (AT) which favours placement of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous homes. Historical attempts to assimilate Indigenous populations are examined in relation to ongoing assimilation within child intervention and justice systems. The goal is to stimulate discussion about possible culturally appropriate models to articulate the complex and multiple attachments formed by an Indigenous person who is brought up in an Indigenous community, compared to the popular Western and Eurocentric view of parenting through dyadic attachment derived from AT.

METHODS: A review of AT literature examining key questions of cross-cultural applicability validity in relation to Indigenous populations. Consultations were held with Elders from the Blackfoot Confederacy of Alberta as part of the Nistawatsiman project. Data were gathered in a project relating to AT and the Supreme Court of Canada.

FINDINGS: Cultural Attachment Theory is emerging as a preferred way to think of Indigenous contexts as opposed to applying traditional AT. The validity of AT with Indigenous families is likely not valid and perpetuates colonial and assimilative understandings of family, parenting and the place of culture.

CONCLUSIONS: Pan-Indigenous methods bias child intervention, blinding them to the capacity of Indigenous caring systems’ capacity to raise their children. The use of AT sustains over- representation of Indigenous children in care and continues the colonial practices of fracturing Indigenous caregiving systems which, in turn, creates the patterns for the next generation’s over-representation in care. Indigenous ways of knowing and being are required along with Indigenous-based decision making.


Indigenous child protection, attachment theory, colonisation, reconciliation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol32iss1id702


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