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Taken on June 19, 2021, for The New York Times, Amber Bracken’s photo titled Kamloops Residential School was named World Press Photo of the Year. (Amber Bracken for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP)

Last year on this date, in response to the discovery of 215 indigenous children whose remains were discovered buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, I posted “They Came for the Children“:

What parent can take the forceful abduction of their child, and then never see them again? Who could conjure up such an atrocity: children sent to residential schools where they would endure abuses of various kinds, only to find them killed by disease, abuse, or neglect, and then thrown in an unmarked mass grave…

In April of this year the jury for the World Press Photo of the Year awarded Amber Bracken the Global prize for her photo above. Mike Corder writes dispassionately:

A haunting image of red dresses hung on crosses along a roadside with a rainbow in the background, commemorating children who died at a residential school.

Nothing more need be added, and yet so much more must be said. Global jury chair Rena Effendi stated:

I could almost hear the quietness in this photograph, a quiet moment of global reckoning for the history of colonization, not only in Canada but around the world.

The Jury Statement:

“This winner represents the awakening of a shameful history that is finally being addressed in Canada. It is a perfect image which captures a rare light, and is at once haunting, arresting, and symbolic. The sensory image offers a quiet moment of reckoning with the global legacy of colonization and exploitation, while amplifying the voices of First Nations communities who are demanding justice. The single image requires an active eye, and encourages us to hold governments, social institutions, and ourselves accountable.

The jury awarded this image the World Press Photo of the Year because it summarizes a global history of colonial oppression that must be addressed in order to tackle the challenges of the future.”

Concerning Amber Bracken:

“[She is] a lifelong Albertan, a freelance photojournalist based in Edmonton, Canada, who photographs primarily across western North America to better connect to the global issues in her own backyard.

Her work explores intersections of race, environment, culture and decolonization, specializing in invested relationship based and historically contextualized storytelling that centers people in their own stories. Recent work has focused on the ongoing legacy of intergenerational trauma from Residential “Schools” for Cree and Metis youth, Wet’suwet’en reoccupation and land rights fights, the overrepresentation of un-housed Indigenous people displaced in their historic territories, and interrogating the impact of race in her own family.”

Now Take a long lingering look at the image…

and weep…

and pray…

and start “The Long Walk of Doing and Undoing