Attawapiskat: Re-examining a community through photos -

Attawapiskat: Re-examining a community through photos

David Maurice Smith, who takes over our Instagram account, went to Attawapiskat to see a town largely known through crisis


Home to the Swampy Cree First Nations people, the rural Canadian community of Attawapiskat in Ontario reached a tragic tipping point in 2016. Nestled on the winding banks of the Attawapiskat river, the town of approximately 2,000 residents declared a formal state of emergency in response to an overwhelming surge of attempted suicides, momentarily grabbing the attention of the Canadian people.

With the support of a grant from the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting, photographer 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. Properly understanding the serious issues facing First Nations people requires a re-contextualizing—a shared focus not only on the struggle, but also on the culture and universal human values of the Attawapiskat Nation.

While addressing the complex challenges that exist, Smith’s project People of the Parting Rocks (the translation of “Attawapiskat” in Cree) also reveals slices of life in Attawapiskat that are largely overlooked: the enduring bonds of family, a connection to the land, the resurrection of traditional practices and the raw natural beauty of the region. “If we continue to stereotype Native communities as lost causes, we perpetuate a divide,” says Smith. “It is damaging to focus on only the most destitute and deplorable conditions for the sake of furthering a narrative that does not tell the whole story and leaves little room for healing.” Follow Maclean’s on Instagram for more photos from Smith, as well as other photographer takeovers and other spectacular images from our magazine.

(All photographs and captions come from David Maurice Smith.)


Attawapiskat: Re-examining a community through photos

    • Well the Fraser Institute……the stink tank… comparing apples and oranges so it’s not valid…..but no matter what the study or the bias….we have to sort this situation out.

      There are over a million natives, not counting the Inuit.

      Are you planning on doing nothing for the next thousand years?


        Gee we don’t have to go to the “stink tank” to get insite into some of the challenges. We can look right into the Macleans archives. As for doing “nothing”…..what is it you are proposing would solve the problems? Justin Trudeau is waiting to hear from you if you have the answers.

        • Are Canadians stupid or what??

          Americans never got past slavery.

          Canadians never got past the agreements with the natives in 1763.

          This isn’t rocket science. Settle the land claims…..and generously.

          Bring in the Kelowna Accord.

          Cripes….be nice to a native! But get on with it!

    • This is a BS comparison. For starters, I’ve been to Atikokan & I’m damn sure the mayor’s job is a part-time one. Moreover, no mayor in the country has the responsibility for the same numbers of things that any FN chief has. Context is everything & this article has none. Just proves the old quote “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”.
      And if you look to the Fraser Institute as a source of information you’re destined to remain ill-informed!