The Canadian Indigenous community of Attawapiskat, Ontario (pop 2000) had more than one hundred residents attempt suicide in a ten month period across 2015 and 2016. On one April 2016 night alone eleven people tried to kill themselves and a further thirteen youth were detained after a suicide pact was uncovered. The Attawapiskat Nation declared a formal state of emergency as the burden of social issues and intergenerational traumas reached tipping point.
Photographer and Pulitzer Center grantee David Maurice Smith—the latest photographer to take over Maclean’s Instagram account, from April 1 to April 7—travelled to Attawapiskat with the intention of showing the community in a broader cultural context, one that could help Canadians to see beyond the crisis itself and understand more about the lives of the town’s residents. The serious challenges facing First Nations towns like Attawapiskat have essentially become the narrative, leading to an erosion of empathy from outsiders and a lack of appreciation of the richness and resiliency of these communities.
His project, People of the Parting Rocks, aims to frame the crisis through an understanding of the culture and values of the People of Attawapiskat and allow perspective deeper than the crisis itself, communicating not only the harm that has come to the Attawapiskat Nation but also the hope that carries the community forward.
Maclean's is a Canadian news magazine, focusing on Canadian issues, such as politics, pop culture, and current events. Macclean's has more information on their website. View them on Instagram to see Smith's photos.