While most of the content PBS tends to pick up from overseas tends to come from the U.K. with the occasional title from Australia, New Zealand, or France, sometimes a show comes wandering down from our neighbor to the north, which is still part of the Commonwealth and even managed to remain so despite the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. While most of us think of Canada as the Land of Free Healthcare, Hot Prime Ministers, and occasional Mystery Series Worth Watching, it’s also lately had to reckon with its own colonialist past and how it treated the Indigenous populations over the last two centuries.
Part of that reckoning has been to confront the “Sixties Scoop,” which occurred both in Australia and Canada just over 50 years ago, where Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their parents and adopted out into middle-class white families some misguided effort to “give them better lives.” Recently, Canadian broadcasters Crave and APTN, in partnership with Fremantle, Rezolution Pictures, and OP Little Bird, broadcast a six-part, one-hour limited series, Little Bird, starring Darla Contois (Dhaliwal’ 15) as Bezhig Little Bird, hunting for her birth family and her family history, dramatizing that story from the perspective of the Indigenous people who lived through it.
PBS has now picked up the rights to the series and the 90-minute documentary Coming Home, which explores the real lives affected by the Sixties Scoop. Directed by Erica Daniels (Run as One), it explores “the connections between the ground-breaking movement for Indigenous narrative sovereignty and the impact of the child welfare system as experienced through the series’ creatives, crew, and advisors.”
Here’s the series synopsis:
Removed from her home in Long Pine Reserve in Saskatchewan, Bezhig Little Bird is adopted into a Montréal Jewish family at age five, becoming Esther Rosenblum. Now in her 20s, Bezhig longs for the family she lost and is willing to sacrifice everything to find them. Her search lands her in the Canadian Prairies, worlds apart from everything she knows. As she begins to track down her siblings, she unravels the mystery behind her adoption and discovers that her apprehension was connected to a racist government policy, now known as the Sixties Scoop. Bezhig's sense of identity shatters, and she is forced to reckon with who she is and who she wants to become.
Contois co-stars alongside a cast of Indigenous actors, including Ellyn Jade (Vikings), Osawa Muskwa (World Ends at Camp Z), Joshua Odjick (Three Pines), Imajyn Cardinal (Tribal), Braeden Clarke (Outlander), Eric Schweig (The Last of the Mohicans), Michelle Thrush (Molly of Denali), and Lisa Edelstein (The Good Wife). The series was developed and created by showrunner Jennifer Podemski and writer Hannah Moscovitch, who wrote all six episodes with director Zoe Hopkins. Hopkins split helming duties with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers.
All four executive produced along with Jeremy Podeswa, Christian Vesper, and Dante Di Loreto for Fremantle; Christina Fon, Ernest Webb, Catherine Bainbridge, and Linda Ludwick for Rezolution Pictures; and Kim Todd and Nicholas Hirst for Original Pictures.
Little Bird premieres on most PBS stations on Thursday, October 12, at 9 p.m. ET, with Coming Home directly following at 10 p.m. ET. The rest of Little Bird’s six episodes will air weekly on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET through November 26, 2023. All six episodes and the documentary will be available for members to stream on premiere day on most PBS Passport services for members. Thursdays are not generally consistent across local stations, so please check your local listings; these are part of a more extensive slate of Indigenous programming led by Ken Burns’ American Buffalo; they will almost certainly be broadcast on every station. It’s just a matter of when.