The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg has announced the People’s Choice Award: Melanie Gray’s image The Next Generation was selected out of more than 24 000 votes by vistors to the museum and to the museum’s website. The photograph is part of 70 images in the exhibition Points of View, which is part of the Canada 150 events and runs through February 4. (The exhibition is also on view online.) The themes of the contest were Reconciliation, Inclusion and Diversity, Human Rights and the Environment and Freedom of Expression.
Gray made the image in her home community on the Rama First Nation in Ontario, where she returns every summer for the pow wow. The Objibway photographer says that the image tells the story of the resilience of Indigenous peoples and their cultures despite the threats of eradication from colonization, residential schools and child welfare policies. In the press release, Gray said, “We weren’t allowed to do this before. Potlatch was banned, pow wow was banned, our culture and language was taken. So this dance is both a symbol of hope and a recognition of what has occurred.” Gray explained, “For me, Canada 150 is not a celebration, but an opportunity to create awareness. It’s important to acknowledge that there are people who have been here a lot longer than 150 years. Reconciliation is crucial as it’s about acknowledgment, relationship building and working together to move forward with respect and with that comes healing. We all benefit from that.”