Freelance photographer and Pulitzer Center grantee Daniella Zalcman visited 14 schools in Canada to present her work on the "Signs of Your Identity" project, which was supported by the Pulitzer Center. During her visit, she attended schools in the provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan, where she spoke to nearly 900 students.
Zalcman's "Signs of Your Identity" project focuses on the forced assimilation of First Nations children in Canada's now-defunct Indian Residential Schools. Zalcman found that the schools, which were operated by the Canadian government for more than a century, punished students for speaking their native languages or observing their cultural traditions. Students were also sexually and physically assaulted—and in some extreme instances—were involuntarily subjected to medical experiments and sterilization. In her project, Zalcman uses double exposure portraits juxtaposing living survivors with images evocative of their experiences and memories.
On her visit to Saskatchewan in February of this year, Zalcman took one of the survivors, Gary Edwards, to four of her class visits and also organized an evening panel with five other survivors at the University of Regina.
"Gary's presence in half of my visits also added a completely new dimension—it's a completely different experience for kids to listen to me relay information than it is to hear straight from someone who experienced the worst of three residential schools," she said.
In Ontario last October, along with visiting schools, Zalcman also spoke at the Ryerson School of Communications to journalists and educators about the process of responsibly documenting and sharing stories of historically marginalized communities. Zalcman has been involved in the Pulitzer Center's educational outreach program since 2014, and in 2016 alone, she worked with Pulitzer Center to present to 958 students in 26 schools across eight cities in the United States.
The following Twitter updates illustrate the impact of Zalcman's visits on students in Canada:
— C Vanderwal's sevens (@vanderclass) October 25, 2016
— Roanna Chan (@roannachan) January 25, 2017