Historic photos show 'resilience,' 'strength' of Indigenous communities

Paul Seesequasis has been posting historic photos of Indigenous people in First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities on social media for the last two years, which has earned him a book deal with Penguin Random House.

Paul Seesequasis tracking down oral history behind old pictures

Paul Seesequasis was inspired by his mother, a residential school survivor, who told him she would like to see more positive stories about Indigenous communities across Canada. (Red Works)

When Paul Seesequasis began posting photos of Indigenous people from archives, museums and other institutions to social media, he earned a large following across the country.

Then he got a book deal.

The Saskatchewan author was inspired to begin the project when his mother, a residential school survivor, said she would like to see more stories depicting the strength and resilience of Indigenous communities across Canada. 

By posting the photos and having someone identify the people featured or provide a background story is giving the pictures new life, Seesequasis said. 

He mentioned one photo set in Edmonton, depicting three women studying. Someone contacted him identifying one woman as a June Steinhauer, a "very fashionably dressed" student and "role model" from Saddle Lake, Alta.

He said having people contact him with information is "one of the most rewarding things" about posting the photos.

"The amount of feedback, the level of feedback from people and just peoples' response was quite overwhelming," he said.

"Every day, I learn something new from doing this."

Book release in 2018

Seesequasis has signed a book deal with Penguin Random House.

He is currently interviewing people about the photos, which he said is a way of providing traditional oral history for the documents. 

Seesequasis' book will contain full colour and black and white photos spanning five decades. It will feature various Indigenous communities throughout the country and include the work of anywhere from eight to 12 photographers, he said.

The photos depict Indigenous people enjoying themselves in day-to-day life, he said. 

"When they start to see the resilience and the strength that went on in these communities, even in the hardest of times, I think that really strikes a chord with people when they are viewing these photos," he said.

The book will be released in 2018. 

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition