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

  • Robertus Pudyanto / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Frozen Shore, Wool Cat, Lenticular Clouds

    An upside-down house in Colombia, wintry weather in Greece, a Viking parade in Glasgow, a camel festival in Abu Dhabi, a cremation ceremony in Bali, and much more

  • Metin Aktas / Anadolu Agency / Getty

    Scenes From Midwinter

    A collection of recent images showing people and animals both surviving and enjoying frigid midwinter conditions.

  • Marcos Reategui / Getty

    Photos: An Oil Spill Causes an Environmental Emergency in Peru

    An oil tanker spilled thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean along the coastline of Peru.

  • Irene Stachon / Lehtikuva / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Wolf Moon, Snow Maze, Burning Barrel

    A murmuration of starlings over Rome, cosplay in a California desert, basking capybaras in Venezuela, ice climbing in Turkey, a violent volcanic eruption in the Tongan archipelago, and much more