Signs of Your Identity
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 as young as two or three years old from their homes and send them to church-run boarding schools. These children 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. Generations of Canada’s First Nations lost touch with their traditional cultures and identities. Languages died out, and sacred ceremonies were criminalized and suppressed. The last residential school closed in 1996, and the Canadian government issued its first formal apology in 2008. Daniella Zalcman’s black-and-white portraits combine photographs of present-day First Nations men and women with images of the memories of their experiences in residential schools. Signs of Your Identity explores the trauma of some of the 80,000 living survivors, and through extensive accompanying interviews addresses the impact of intergenerational trauma, lateral violence, and documents the slow path toward healing.