Erasing Indigenous Heritage

For nearly a century, the Canadian government took indigenous Canadians from their families and placed them in church-run boarding schools, forcibly assimilating them to Western culture. Children as young as 2 or 3 years old were taken from their homes, their language extinguished, their culture destroyed. With support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, photographer Daniella Zalcman has been documenting the lingering effects of this trauma for her book, Signs of Your Identity, this year's winner for the FotoEvidence Book Award.

"Students were punished for speaking their native languages or observing indigenous traditions, physically and sexually assaulted, and in extreme instances subjected to medical experimentation and sterilization," Zalcman said. "At least 6,000 children died while in the system—so many that it was common for residential schools to have their own cemeteries." Zalcman's double exposures combine portraits of the former students with places or items relating to their experience, giving the photos an ethereal look that underscores the damage the system caused. The last Indian Residential School closed in 1996. The government issued its first apology in 2008.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Walter Iooss. Jr. / Getty

    Photos: The Queen of Soul's Amazing Career

    A collection of images of Aretha Franklin’s incredible life of performance, spanning the past five decades.

  • Fiona Goodall / Getty for Lumix

    A Visit to Tuvalu, Surrounded by the Rising Pacific

    Fiona Goodall, a photographer working with Getty Images, recently visited the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, a country battling rising sea levels with limited resources.

  • Peter Morgan / Reuters

    Photos: 15 Years Since the 2003 Northeast Blackout

    On August 14, 2003, more than 50 million people across eight U.S. states and parts of Canada were left without power for days in the most widespread blackout in North American history.

  • FTCS (SS) Bob Nguyen / U.S. Navy

    Photos of the Week: Robot Cat, Purple Water, Tunnel of Love

    Missiles fly between Israel and Gaza, dizzying views in Hong Kong, a migrant family is reunited in Guatemala, a boisterous rodeo in Australia, wildfires intensify in California, and much more.