A Legacy: Alaskan Children and the Catholic Church

July 23rd, 2008

The non-photojournalist probably hasn’t seen this website, but if you have I’m sure you’ve spent more time than you anticipated learning about our world through the eyes of some of the best photojournalists.

Magnum in Motion is this historic agency’s step into the world of “new media,” that combination of stills, audio, and video designed largely for the web which aids in compelling storytelling. Also termed “multimedia” or “rich media” it has an effect–I feel–of bring you closer.

I’m choosing to highlight this piece for a couple of reasons. One, I think it just went live. Two, I like the style of the reporting and the techniques used. Three, having recently been to a native Alaskan village, it strikes me even more. Four, it’s about a subject I’ve grown to know pretty well–so well, in fact, that it’s grown hard for me not to see it in every day life.
That was one of the things I was warned about when I got into this psychological trauma work; once your eyes are opened you can’t close them. Many people, I feel, understand this and choose never to open their eyes. And that, I believe, is one of the main reasons perpetrators get away with it.

If you’ve read the Kivalina pieces I’ve posted (here and here), this will give you a different look at the Alaskan landscape. It’s a view that’s probably pretty similar to the one seen by a little girl in Kivalina who proudly told me she was ugly and stupid.

Of note: judging by the map in the media piece, Kivalina is not one of the villages featured in the story.

From 1961-1987, 110 Eskimo children in 15 Alaskan villages were sexually abused by 12 priests and three Catholic Church volunteers. The secrets of the abused remained buried, until 2002, when the Catholic Church sex scandal came to light, implicating the Boston diocese, among others. Over the years, 22 of the victims have committed suicide. Today, the remaining survivors- grown and deeply troubled – are locked in a daily struggle with the residue of their trauma, and the ghosts of their tormentors.

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