Daniella Zalcman Wins 2016 FotoEvidence Book Award for Stories of Forced Assimilation in Canada

Using multiple exposures to tell the stories of survivors of the Indian Residential School system

Daniella Zalcman FotoEvidence Winner
This is Mike Pinay, who attended the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School from 1953-1963. "It was the worst ten years of my life. I was away from my family from the age of 6 to 16. How do you learn about relationships, how do you learn about family? I didn't know what love was. We weren't even known by names back then, I was a number." "Do you remember your number?" "73."© Daniella Zalcman

Daniella Zalcman has been named as the 2016 FotoEvidence Book Award for her project, "Signs of Your Identity." The project documents the stories of indigenous Canadian children who were forcibly placed in church-run boarding schools as part of a government created program called the Indian Residential School system. The program attempted to force Canada's indigenous people to assimilate into Western Canadian culture.

“Attendance was mandatory and Indian Agents would regularly visit reserves to take children as young as two or three from their communities,” Zalcman said in a statement about the work. “Many of them wouldn’t see their families again for the next decade.”

Life inside these church-run schools was brutal. Students were systematically deprived of their cultural identities: punished for speaking native languages and observing traditions. Physical and sexual assault of the students was the norm and at least 6,000 children died while placed in this system. The final school didn’t close until 1996. In 2008 the Canadian government offered a formal apology and officially labeled the state created system as a cultural genocide.

In “Signs of Your Identity” Zalcman creates multiple exposure portraits of the people who survived the residential school system as a way to portray the struggle her subjects continue to face to overcome the trauma caused by forced assimilation. The work will be exhibited in New York in November 2016 and also published as a book this year.

Runners-up for the sixth annual contest include Narciso Contreras for "Yemen: the Forgotten War," Mario Cruz for "Talibes, Modern Day Slaves," (which was just awarded 1st Prize for Contemporary Issues Story by World Press Photo), Hossein Fatemi for "An Iranian Journey" and Ingetje Tadros for "This is My Country."

Daniella Zalcman FotoEvidence Winner
This is Rick Pelletier, who attended the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School from 1965-1966. He was 7 years old. He was being beaten so badly -- both by the nuns and by older students who themselves had been subjected to extreme physical violence -- that when his parents went to take him back for his second year, he ran away. Later, his parents enrolled him at a local public school in Regina, but the experience was just as bad. Being one of the only First Nations students at school meant he was the object of bullying and racism. "I still don't know which was worse."© Daniella Zalcman
Daniella Zalcman FotoEvidence Winner
This is Marcel Ellery, who went to Marieval Indian Residential School from 1987-1990. "I ran away 27 times. But the RCMP always found us eventually. When I got out, I turned to booze because of the abuse. I drank to suppress what had happened to me, to deal with my anger, to deal with my pain, to forget. Ending up in jail was easy, because I'd already been there."© Daniella Zalcman
Daniella Zalcman
This is Valerie Ewenin, who went to Muskowekwan Indian Residential School from 1965-1971. "I was brought up believing in the nature ways, burning sweetgrass, speaking Cree. And then I went to residential school and all that was taken away from me. And then later on I forgot it, too, and that was even worse." Throughout Canada, it was standard procedure for the teachers, priests, nuns, and administrators who ran residential schools to punish students for speaking their own languages or trying to practice their own faith. For indigenous children who were taken away from their families as young as 3 or 4 and sometimes wouldn't get to see their families again for as long as a decade, that meant a complete forced disassociation from their own cultures and identities. Imagine finally getting home to your reserve as a 14-year-old and realizing you can't communicate with your parents anymore because they only speak Dene and you only speak English. That happened to thousands and thousands of First Nations children.© Daniella Zalcman
Daniella Zalcman FotoEvidence Winner
This is Jaime Rockthunder, who went to the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School from 1990-1994. She was sexually assaulted during her time there, and her younger brother was raped by a classmate. Jaime said, "He finally told me about it, almost 20 years later, and he blamed me. All he could say is, 'Why didn't you protect me?'" One of the most haunting legacies of the residential school system is how much of the trauma transitioned into lateral violence—entire generations of indigenous children grew up without their families and frequently were subjected to unspeakable physical and sexual violence. That anger and hurt was often channeled into lashing out at each other, and, when they eventually had children of their own, the next generation as well.© Daniella Zalcman
Ingetje Tadros
Before the white men invaded, Aboriginal people had a great food source to choose from which came from the bush, the land, seas and waterways. The people have a great understanding of the changing season and environment. Aboriginal people on the coast would have a diet of shellfish, turtles, dugon, fish, berries etc and people inland would have fresh water fish, yabbies, emu, duck, kangaroo, snakes etc.© Ingetje Tadros
Ingetje Tadros
Esther Yumbi having breakfast in her home in Kennedy Hill. Due to excessive alcohol consumption she has been diagnosed with kidney disease and now is being treated in Perth Hospital 2300 km away. Broome, Western Australia.© Ingetje Tadros
Hossein Fatemi
Two young women practicing the violin.© Hossein Fatemi
Hossein Fatemi
Siavash, a tattooist, smokes a cigarette. While not illegal, Islamic law is often used to denounce those sporting them.© Hossein Fatemi
Mário Cruz
Talibes, Modern day slaves
Ibrahima Ndao, Marabout of a Daara in Rufisque, whips a talibe child after he mistakenly read an excerpt of the Quran, May 17, 2015. The Talibes are subjected to physical violence when they fail to get the daily quota imposed by the marabout or if they make a mistake while reading the Quran.© Mário Cruz
Mário Cruz
Talibes, Modern day slaves
Abdoulaye, 15, imprisoned in one room of a daara in the Diamaguene area, city of Thies, Senegal, May 18, 2015. The rooms have windows with security bars to keep the talibes from running away.© Mário Cruz
Narciso Contreras
July 7, 2015, Beni Hassan, Yemen: Displaced women gather in Al Manjoorah temporary settlement at the outskirts of Beni Hassan, in Hajjah province. As the heavy fighting had resumed between the Houthi insurgency and the Saudi-led coalition, thousands of civilians were forced to flee to improvised camps throughout the northern rebel-controlled areas.© Narciso Contreras
Narciso Contreras
July 10, 2015, Sana'a, Yemen: Houthi militants shout political slogans in solidarity with the Palestinian people during the commemoration of "Al Quds" as they rallied against the Saudi-led military campaign launched to fight them.© Narciso Contreras