Click photo above for slideshow (10 photographs)


Signs Of Your Identity:
Photographer’s double exposure images
paint haunting picture of residential school legacy

For 120 years, the Canadian government operated a network of Indian Residential Schools that were meant to assimilate young indigenous students into western Canadian culture. Indian agents would take children from their homes as young as two or three and send them to church-run boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their native languages or observing any indigenous traditions, routinely sexually and physically assaulted, and in some extreme instances subjected to medical experimentation and sterilization.

The last residential school closed in 1996. The Canadian government issued its first formal apology in 2008. Generations of Canada’s First Nations forgot who they were. Languages died out, sacred ceremonies were criminalized and suppressed. “‘You stupid Indian’ were the first English words I ever learned,” Tom Janvier told me. He was sent to residential school as a 3-year-old, where he was bullied, beaten, and sexually molested. “It became self-fulfilling. My identity was held against me.”

These double exposure portraits explore the trauma of some of the 80,000 living survivors who remain, and through extensive accompanying interviews address the impact of intergenerational trauma, lateral violence, and document the slow path towards healing.

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Written By
Daniella Zalcman

Daniella Zalcman

Daniella Zalcman is a documentary photographer based between London and New York. She is a multiple grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation, and a member of Boreal Collective. Her work tends to focus on the legacies of western colonization, from the rise of homophobia in East Africa to the forced assimilation education of indigenous children in North America. She won the 2016 FotoEvidence Book Award, the Magnum Foundation’s Inge Morath Award, and the Magenta Foundation’s Bright Spark Award for her project Signs of Your Identity.

She recently launched a website dedicated to showcasing female photographers. https://www.womenphotograph.com/