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Seven Fallen Feathers
Cover of Seven Fallen Feathers
Seven Fallen Feathers
Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City
The groundbreaking and multiple award-winning national bestseller work about systemic racism, education, the failure of the policing and justice systems, and Indigenous rights by Tanya Talaga.Over the...
The groundbreaking and multiple award-winning national bestseller work about systemic racism, education, the failure of the policing and justice systems, and Indigenous rights by Tanya Talaga.Over the...
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  • The groundbreaking and multiple award-winning national bestseller work about systemic racism, education, the failure of the policing and justice systems, and Indigenous rights by Tanya Talaga.

    Over the span of eleven years, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They were hundreds of kilometres away from their families, forced to leave home because there was no adequate high school on their reserves. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning author Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this northern city that has come to manifest Canada's long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    It's early April and the 2011 federal election is in full swing. All over Canada, Stephen Harper's Conservatives are duking it out with Jack Layton's New Democrats and the struggling Liberals in a bid to win a majority government.

    I'm in Thunder Bay, Ontario, to see Stan Beardy, the Nishawbe-Aski Nation's grand chief, to interview him for a story on why it is indigenous people never seem to vote.

    The receptionist at the NAN's office greets me and ushers me into a large, common meeting room to wait for Stan. Everything in the room is grey — the walls, the tubular plastic tables, the carpets. The only splash of colour is a large white flag with a bear on it that has been tacked to the wall.

    The Great White Bear stands in the centre of a red circle, in the middle of the flag. The white bear is the traditional symbol of the life of the North American Indian. The red circle background is symbolic of the Red Man. His feet are standing, planted firmly on the bottom line, representing the Earth while his head touches the top line, symbolic to his relationship to the Great Spirit in the sky. The bear is stretched out, arms and feet open wide, to show he has nothing to hide.

    There are circles joining the bear's rib cage. They are the souls of the people, indigenous songs, and legends. The circles are the ties that bind all the clans together.

    These circles also offer protection. Without them, the ribcage would expose the great bear's beating heart and leave it open to harm.

    Stan walks in and greets me warmly, his brown eyes twinkling as he takes a seat.

    Stan is pensive, quiet, and patient. He says nothing as he wearily leans back in his chair and waits for me to explain why exactly I flew 2,400 km north from Toronto to see him and talk about the federal election.

    I launch into my spiel, trying not to sound like a salesperson or an interloper into his world, someone who kind of belongs here and kind of does not. This is the curse of my mixed blood. I am the daughter of a half-Anish mom and a Polish father.

    I ramble off abysmal voting pattern statistics across Canada, while pointing out that in many ridings indigenous people could act as a swing vote, influencing that riding and hence the trajectory of the election.

    Stan stares at me impassively. Non-plussed.

    So I start firing off some questions.

    It doesn't go well. Every time I try to engage him, asking him about why indigenous people won't get in the game and vote, he begins talking about the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Jordan Wabasse.

    It was a frustrating exchange, like we were speaking two different languages.

    "Indigenous voters could influence fifty seats across the country if they got out and voted but they don't. Why?" I ask.

    "Why aren't you writing a story on Jordan Wabasse? He has been gone seventy-one days now," replies Stan.

    "Stephen Harper has been no friend to indigenous people yet if everyone voted, they could swing the course of this election," I continue, hoping he'll bite at the sound of Harper's name. The man is no friend of the Indians.

    "They found a shoe down by the water. Police think it might have been his," replies Stan.

    This went on for a good fifteen minutes. I was annoyed. I knew a missing Grade 9 indigenous student in Thunder Bay would not make news in urban Toronto at Canada's largest daily newspaper. I could practically see that election bus rolling away without me.

    Then I remembered my manners and where I was.

    I was sitting with the elected grand chief of 23,000 people and he was clearly trying to tell me something.

    I tried a new tactic. I'd ask about Jordan and then...

About the Author-

  • TANYA TALAGA is the acclaimed author of Seven Fallen Feathers, which was the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, and the First Nation Communities READ: Young Adult/Adult Award; a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize and the BC National Award for Nonfiction; CBC's Nonfiction Book of the Year, a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, and a national bestseller. Talaga was the 2017–2018 Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy, the 2018 CBC Massey Lecturer, and author of the national bestseller All Our Relations: Finding The Path Forward. For more than twenty years she has been a journalist at the Toronto Star and is now a columnist at the newspaper. She has been nominated five times for the Michener Award in public service journalism. Talaga is of Polish and Indigenous descent. Her great-grandmother, Liz Gauthier, was a residential school survivor. Her great-grandfather, Russell Bowen, was an Ojibwe trapper and labourer. Her grandmother is a member of Fort William First Nation. Her mother was raised in Raith and Graham, Ontario. She lives in Toronto with her two teenage children.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 27, 2017
    Journalist Talaga’s debut, about the deaths of seven young indigenous people between 2000 and 2011 in Thunder Bay, Ont., is a powerful examination and critique of present and past Canadian policies on indigenous peoples. The book is broken into sections, each one introducing readers to a promising indigenous youth who was forced to move hundreds of kilometers from a northern community to Thunder Bay in order to complete an education. Instead of finding opportunities, these young people found racism, indifference, violence, and finally death. Many questions about each death remain unanswered, but each one was immediately deemed accidental, some noted as such by the local police even before a coroner had a chance to conduct an autopsy. Talaga’s research is meticulous and her journalistic style is crisp and uncompromising. She brings each story to life, skillfully weaving the stories of the youths’ lives, deaths, and families together with sharp analysis. She connects each death to neocolonial policies and institutional racism in all levels of governments, as well as the legacy of Canada’s infamously abusive residential schools. The book is heartbreaking and infuriating, both an important testament to the need for change and a call to action.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from November 1, 2017
    Talaga, a veteran investigative reporter for the Toronto Star, has crafted an urgent and unshakable portrait of the horrors faced by indigenous teens going to school in Thunder Bay, Ontario, far from their homes and families. Since the early twentieth century, indigenous children living on Native reservations in northwestern Ontario have lacked access to a quality education. A child's best shot at a bright future is to move away from home and attend school in one of the bigger nearby cities, like Thunder Bay. This often means fleeing the nest and living independently at only 13 or 14 years old. Aside from the premature launch, indigenous teenagers face a myriad of hardships while attending big-city high schoolsrampant racism, extreme underage alcohol and substance abuse, along with physical and sexual violence. Talaga chronicles seven untimely and largely unsolved deaths that have taken place among Native Thunder Bay students since the new millennium. Seven families lost children too soon, and seven families were denied justice by police, coroners, and school administrators. Talaga's incisive research and breathtaking storytelling could bring this community one step closer to the healing it deserves.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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Seven Fallen Feathers
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Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City
Tanya Talaga
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