Pulitzer Center Update

Canadian Media Outlets Focus on Daniella Zalcman's 'Signs of Identity'

This is Stuart Bitternose. He went to Gordon Indian Residential School from 1946-1954. “After I’d had enough of that place, one day I jumped the 8 foot high fence and I took off down the highway. I found a farm, and I asked if I could work, and I stayed there for two and a half years on a salary of a dollar a day. I learned how to look after cattle, cut firewood, mend fences, thresh. I did it all. I told the farmer I’d run away, and he said he didn’t care – and if anyone came looking for me he’d chase them off for trespassing. I still keep in touch with his sons. He saved me.” Image by Daniella Zalcman. Canada, 2015.

This is Gary Edwards. He attended three residential schools in Saskatchewan between 1970-1978. He first told me about his memories from school when I met him last November, and they remain some of the most terrifying stories I've ever heard. One in particular has stayed with me -- Gary remembers that routinely, after mass, the priest and two assistants would lock the church doors, don gas masks (the old-fashioned canister kind), and open clear, seemingly empty mason jars. Minutes later, some students would begin to vomit, or seize, or to develop severe nosebleeds. To this day, he has not been able to figure out what was happening during those weekly sessions, but he believes that someone was using him and his schoolmates to test nerve gas. While that's hard to prove, for now, there are many documented cases of medical testing and forced sterilization of indigenous children while they were at residential school. Image by Daniella Zalcman. Canada, 2015.

While the global fight against HIV shows many signs of progress, there are still entire populations without sufficient access to necessary medical care. Canada's Aboriginal community is one of them. When Pulitzer Center grantee Daniella Zalcman went to learn more about these problems, she discovered another story: the devastating results of the Canadian government network of Indian Residential Schools meant to assimilate young indigenous students into Canadian culture.

Zalcman spent three weeks in Saskatchewan in the summer of 2015, telling the stories of those who survived one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history. She used double exposure photography, overlaying portraits of survivors with images significant to their experiences.

After CBC/Radio Canada interviewed Grant Severeight, one of the survivors Zalcman photographed, media outlets across Canada picked up her haunting photography and spoke with her about her work.

Coverage of Zalcman and her project appeared in: The StarPhoenix, The Star, Panow, The Spec, City News, 680 News, and News Radio Station CJME.

Photographs from Zalcman's project "Signs of Identity in Canada's First Nation" also have been featured on The New Yorker Instagram and Fishbowl NY.

Zalcman used double exposure photography in her first project with the Pulitzer Center as well, "Kuchus in Uganda," to protect the identities of the people she interviewed. The result was an intimate focus on the LGBT-rights movement and role of religion in Uganda.