I snapped these pics of a temporary exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology, titled “Speaking To Memory: Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Residential School”, an Indian residential school in Alert Bay, BC, which operated from 1929 to 1974 in the project of forced assimilation and cultural eradication. As is now widely understood, these schools often became hellholes of cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of Native children at the hands of white adults, a multi-generational trauma whose pain remains a long road ahead.
During the late 1930s, one student at the school had a camera and she took photographs of many of her classmates. She recently donated these images to the museum, resulting in this exhibit. The old school building remains standing, in deteriorating condition, and photos of its now-decrepit interiors create a haunting backdrop to displayed items, which include statements from hundreds of students at the school, passages of government reports, formal apologies from various churches and government bodies for their role, as well as an ongoing invitation for more statements and information from visitors who were either residential school students or knew anyone who was. It’s a somber, dimly lit exhibit, and I could hear sobs from people taking it in.