On the 11th of april 2016, Attawapiskat, a small isolated town in Northern Ontario, Canada, was in the news around the world. On that day 11 people tried to commit suicide. Some of them were only 11 years old.
Attawapiskat is not an exception. Everywhere in Canada in First Nations and Inuit communities young people are committing suicide in large numbers. A high rate of unemployment, addiction, mental health problems and overcrowded, substandard or condemned housing are some of the causes. But it started earlier.
The Residential School System created a trauma that is passed on from generation to generation. By this system indigenous youth was taken away from their families for 10 months a year. It was a way of assimilating the youth to Western culture and Christian beliefs. Many children in the schools were neglected, harmed and didn’t get proper education. Stories of abuse are abundant.
With ‘ECHO’ I collaborated with grade 8 children from Attawapiskat, creating their own voice and therefore attention to their life. In the same time the project makes critical remarks about the media’s portrayal of social minorities, why is it always the rich white outsider telling the stories of the less fortunate, aren’t they victimised and patronised this way? Next to that, the story is about the consequences of our colonial past in the everyday life of indigenous children. The project combines cold, empty and lonely landscapes with dark, warm and intimate family pictures. Drawings, writings and pictures made by local children show their actual thoughts and worries.