People of the Parting Rocks

The Canadian indigenous community of Attawapiskat, Ontario (pop. 2000) had more than one hundred residents attempt suicide in a ten month period across 2015/16. 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.

The crisis in Attawapiskat is part of a much larger story, one that dates back to the day foreign vessels arrived on North American shores and unlawfully took something that was not theirs. Centuries of attempted genocide and cultural cleansing has scarred the Indigenous people of Canada and the crisis of Attawapiskat has its roots in the legacies of this history.

While news emerged after initial word of the crisis spread, as with so many other stories related to the plight of Indigenous people in North America, the story has been simplified and largely faded from consciousness. Community stories that offer cultural context to these suicides have not been heard.

This project 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.

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