Seven Fallen Feathers

Seven Fallen Feathers

Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in A Northern City

Book - 2017
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"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.
Publisher: Toronto :, Anansi,, 2017
ISBN: 9781487002268
Branch Call Number: 305.897 TAL
Characteristics: 361 pages : maps ; 22 cm

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w
wyenotgo
Nov 30, 2018

This an important book. Well researched, earnest, passionate, well structured and timely. So, why only 3 1/2 stars? Simply because it paints a disturbing picture, raises our level of concern, perhaps makes us feel guilty or at least uncomfortable with a set of circumstances that most of us feel helpless to do anything about. In that respect, it's akin to the depressingly frequent news stories of mass shootings in the USA or the abuses of corrupt governments elsewhere. It's an indictment. But an indictment is just an administrative legal instrument; it may set the wheels in motion for some other administrative event to occur but it never solves anything.
This book is all about symptoms and the futility of treating them. Neither anything in this book nor anything being done by the parties involved (the government, the AFN, the various bureaucracies or other well-intentioned interveners) has addressed the root causes.
Symptoms of a dysfunctional system include:
-- The cultural, social and economic dislocation faced by aboriginal teenagers shipped off to school in Thunder Bay
-- the high secondary school dropout rate
-- the high incidence of substance abuse and dependency
-- the racist attitudes of local residents and the police
-- nearly 40% of aboriginal children being in foster care
All of the foregoing are symptoms arising from a series of bad decisions and a current system that is faulty and doomed to fail. The book fails to address root causes or offer any substantive solutions.
The arrival of Europeans destroyed the economic basis for the survival of an indigenous population that had lived in harmony with their land for thousands of years. In Canada it began with the fur trade which grossly distorted the economic base of aboriginals by making them dependent on settlers and merchants for goods they has previously lived without and dependent on markets for what they produced. This was followed up by wholesale confiscation of resources and a deliberate campaign aimed at obliterating the culture, traditions, language, beliefs and family structures of aboriginals. As a result, much of the aboriginal population is now poverty stricken, dislocated and dependent on government financial and social support. They have been made clients of the state, a trap from which they cannot escape. The amount of economic support being provided for schools, housing, health care and social services is admittedly inadequate and inequitable. BUT NO AMOUNT OF MONEY WILL FIX THIS. And the errors of the past cannot be undone. The world that aboriginals inhabited and understood before Europeans arrived is gone forever.
Any solution must focus on measures to remove aboriginals from economic and social dependency and restore cultural, social and family structures within the aboriginal community itself. Societies that are self-sufficient and in control of their own destinies will survive, adapt and eventually thrive. Those aboriginal communities that have been given opportunities to run their own enterprises, make their own administrative decisions, keep their children in their own families are thriving. Those are the models that need to be emulated. The process needs to begin with the abolition of the Indian Act and a wholesale settlement of land claims in a manner aimed at making aboriginal communities self-sufficient and self-governed.
Ms. Talaga has defined the situation very well. It would be encouraging for this to be followed up with a sequel outlining a set of workable proposals to address the root causes and make the entire growing aboriginal population a successful, self-confident part of our country.

k
KennethSmith
Oct 23, 2018

In Canada, we have reserves, not "reservations". We have honours here, not "honors". We are in Canada, not the United States. Thank God.

d
Darlenejoy
Aug 08, 2018

I grew up in Montreal, which is surrounded by a number of reservations and yet I knew virtually nothing about the native people in Canada other than what was taught out of a history book. I had a small awakening during the land dispute in Oka and then in Ipperwash but I really didn’t understand what the difference was between me and them. I moved to Lethbridge Alberta this year and then I read this book. I cried the entire time. I have never been so acutely aware of the privilege my white skin brings as I am now and I will never be the same person. This book has changed my perspective about people and the way we treat each other and I am a better person for having read it. If every person read this book with an open mind and an open heart we would be living in a better world.

m
mclarjh
Apr 29, 2018

Important subject, but poorly written (high school level); more propaganda than journalism.

debwalker Feb 28, 2018

Tanya Talaga won the C$25,000 RBC Taylor Prize, which honors the best in Canadian nonfiction, for for her book Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City.
In its citation, the jury said: "Talaga has written Canada's J'Accuse, an open letter to the rest of us about the many ways we contribute--through act or inaction--to suicides and damaged existences in Canada's indigenous communities. Tanya Talaga's account of teen lives and deaths in and near Thunder Bay is detailed, balanced and heart-rending. Talaga describes gaps in the system large enough for beloved children and adults to fall through, endemic indifference, casual racism and a persistent lack of resources. It is impossible to read this book and come away unchanged."

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