Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City
Seven Fallen Feathers tells the story of seven students, all of whom died in Thunder Bay, Ontario, between 2000 and 2011. All were Indigenous students forced to leave their family homes to seek an education; their deaths were glossed over by officials. But as Toronto Star journalist Tanya Talaga looked into the stories of these students' deaths, she was struck by the similarities the modern system bore to the one-time residential school system in Canada--a system that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has, in 2015, deemed a tool of cultural genocide against Canada's Aboriginal peoples.
Talaga draws the parallels between the historical school system and the deaths of these students in her detailed account. In doing so, she gives readers a history of residential schools--with their many horrors and abuses. Her research unveils a legacy of racism and colonialism that has resulted in poor educational prospects, abuse and mistreatment, high suicide rates and broken family structures, among other injustices.
Much of Seven Fallen Feathers feels imbued with a strange sense of déjà vu, in part because Talaga repeats facts multiple times across as many pages. But that impression also comes from the eerie similarity between the lives and deaths of these seven students--and, indeed, the similarities between these seven and the many who died or disappeared from residential schools as far back as the late 19th century. The repetition is what Talaga works hard to warn against: look at what's been done. Remember what has happened. Do not let it happen again. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm