MIKE PINAY Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School 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 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.”

Signs of Your Identity


In the 1870s, the Canadian government created a network of Indian Residential Schools 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. 

These multiple exposure portraits overlay images of survivors with the sites and memories of their boarding school experiences, as an attempt to visually engage with the impacts of cultural genocide and intergenerational trauma.

This project has been supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Magnum Foundation, and Open Society Foundations. More information and educational programming is available here


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