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Paul Seesequasis turns social media project of aboriginal life into book deal

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Screen shot 2017-01-30 at 3.45.35 PMA series of historic photos of indigenous life that Saskatchewan author and journalist Paul Seesequasis has been curating on his social media feeds will be published in book form by Penguin Random House Canada next year.

Seesequasis started sourcing and posting archival photos of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities to Twitter and Facebook two years ago, with the aim of sharing more positive stories amid the publicized atrocities of residential schooling and missing and murdered indigenous women.

“My mother is a residential school survivor, and said she’d like to hear more stories about how families worked hard to get things together through these tough times. That really got me thinking, so I started to research and found more and more photos, and started to post them,” Seesequasis says. “My curatorial vision has been to emphasize the resilience of people and these communities during this time.”

The photos Seesequasis has sourced – from national and regional archives, as well as museums and historical societies – feature a number of communities across Canada and the U.S. He says that, through sharing them daily, he’s been able to garner more details like names and backstories of those depicted. The book will feature many of these stories. “That’s one of the rewards of it … relatives have said, ‘That’s my great-grandfather’ or ‘That’s my auntie.’ And people have offered stories that go along with the photos, so there’s this historical narrative that’s also developed as I’ve been posting these,” Seesequasis says. Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun, due from the Knopf Canada imprint in spring 2018, will feature 80-90 photographs in both colour and black-and-white from approximately eight photographers during a period spanning the 1940s to the late ’70s. Alongside the photos and stories will be interviews with some of the photographers who are still alive today, which Seesequasis is still in the process of conducting.

Seesequasis plans to continue with the social media aspect of the project, at least until the book’s release. “There’s a wealth of material so I plan to keep doing it,” he says. “They seem to strike a chord.”