Cover image for Seven fallen feathers : racism, death, and hard truths in a northern city / Tanya Talaga.
Title:
Seven fallen feathers : racism, death, and hard truths in a northern city / Tanya Talaga.
ISBN:
9781487002268
Publication Information:
Toronto : Anansi, 2017.

©2017
Physical Description:
361 pages : maps ; 22 cm
Abstract:
"Over the span of ten years, seven high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave their reserve because there was no high school there for them to attend. Award-winning journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this northern city that has come to manifest, and struggle with, human rights violations past and present against aboriginal communities."--Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

Winner, 2018 RBC Taylor Prize

Winner, 2017 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

Winner, First Nation Communities Read Indigenous Literature Award

Finalist, 2017 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

Finalist, 2017 Speaker's Book Award

Finalist, 2018 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

A Globe And Mail Top 100 Book

A National Post 99 Best Book Of The Year

In 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied.

More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the minus twenty degrees Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau's grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang's. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie's death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water.

Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada's long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.

A portion of each sale of Seven Fallen Feathers will go to the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Memorial Fund, set up in 1994 to financially assist Nishnawbe Aski Nation students' studies in Thunder Bay and at post-secondary institutions.


Author Notes

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 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 I'd swing around and get him to talk about elections. Then Stan said: "Jordan is the seventh student to go missing or die while at school." Seven. Stan says their names: "Reggie Bushie. Jethro Anderson. Paul Panacheese. Curran Strang. Robyn Harper. Kyle Morrisseau. And now, Jordan Wabasse." He then tells me the seven were hundreds of miles away from their home communities and families. Each was forced to leave their reserve simply because there was no high school for them to attend. "Going to high school is the right of every Canadian child," says Stan, adding that these children are no different. Excerpted from Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Chapter 1 Notes from a Blind Manp. 13
Chapter 2 Why Chanie Ranp. 49
Chapter 3 When the Wolf Comesp. 91
Chapter 4 Hurting from the Beforep. 127
Chapter 5 The Hollowness of Not Knowingp. 155
Chapter 6 We Speak for the Dead to Protect the Livingp. 177
Chapter 7 Brothersp. 201
Chapter 8 River, Give Me My Son Backp. 243
Chapter 9 Less Than Worthy Victimsp. 265
Chapter 10 Seven Fallen Feathersp. 287
Epiloguep. 303
Notesp. 316
Suggested Readingp. 341
Acknowledgementsp. 343
Indexp. 351
About the Authorp. 363