Eagle Feathers

PhotographerCharla Jones
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

“Eagle Feathers” is about the legacy of colonization in Canada, viewed through the portraits and words of residential school survivors and the descendants of residential school survivors. Residential schools were government sponsored religious schools established across Canada from 1840 to 1996. The goal of these schools was to remove children from their “savage” family in order to assimilate them into a European way of being. Once at the school, each child was provided with a number instead of a name. They were forbidden to speak their language, their hair was cut and they were shamed into abandoning their traditions and spirituality. In the worst-case scenarios, children were sexually and physically abused. Untold numbers of children died, most of them from tuberculosis. Others went missing, and an unknown number were used for medical experiments. We will never have a comprehensive understanding of what happened since most of the records have been

Story

“Eagle Feathers” is about the legacy of colonization in Canada, viewed through the portraits, words and voices of residential school survivors and the descendants of residential school survivors. Residential schools were government sponsored religious schools established across Canada from 1840 to 1996. The goal of these schools was to remove children from their “savage” family in order to assimilate them into a European way of being. Once at the school, each child was provided with a number instead of a name. They were forbidden to speak their language, their hair was cut and they were shamed into abandoning their traditions and spirituality. In the worst-case scenarios, children were sexually and physically abused. Untold numbers of children died, most of them from tuberculosis. Others went missing, and an unknown number were used for medical experiments. We will never have a comprehensive understanding of what happened since most of the records have been destroyed. The impact on the survivors, their family, and all Aboriginal communities has been enormous. Our Canadian history has largely been written as a white, Euro-centric narrative. For example, most Canadians will celebrate “Canada 150” this year marking 150 years since confederation, yet this celebration does not take into account over 10,000 years of indigenous history. Although awareness is increasing and progress has been made over the last few years, many Canadians have still never heard about residential schools; those who have know few details about what happened. It is more common to resent the founders of this country than to respect them. The fate of many First Nations, Métis and Inuit children is bleak. There are now more children in the foster care system now then there ever were during the time of residential schools. Aboriginal children are more likely to end up in jail then to graduate from high school, causing some scholars to start calling Canada’s prisons the “new residential schools”. The suicide rate is six times higher than the national rate, Aboriginal women are six times more likely to be murdered, 50 percent of children live in poverty, and many reserves have no clean drinking water. Racism is rampant across Canada with an increase of hate crimes against Aboriginal people. This is a complex situation that took seven generations to create. The goal of this project is to build awareness and understanding. Many Canadians have never met a residential school survivor, nor have they thought of the continuing impact of colonization on the current generation of Aboriginal youth. - Charla Jones (June 30th, 2017)