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

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

byTanya Talaga

Paperback | September 30, 2017

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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.

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 First Nation Communities Read: Young Adult/Adult. The book was also a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize and the BC National Award for Nonfiction...
Title:Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern CityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:September 30, 2017Publisher:House Of Anansi Press IncLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1487002262

ISBN - 13:9781487002268


Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Story Had to be Told “Seven Fallen Feathers” is an investigative reporting generated story of seven indigenous high school students who died in Thunder Bay from 2000 to 2011 – five found dead in rivers in the area. The seven were among thousands of indigenous youth who are forced to relocate to cities away from their families because there are no high schools on their reserves. The seven deaths were also the subject of the largest coroner’s inquest in the history of Ontario. Talaga traces the tragic lives of the seven youth in the time leading up to and following their deaths. It tears the veil of secrecy off the systemic racism they and other indigenous students and adults experienced in Thunder Bay which would come to be labelled the hate crime capital of Canada. The story could not be written without exploring the cultural genocide that indigenous people in Canada have been subjected to, including the notorious residential school system and the tragic legacy of it that spans multiple generations. It needs to be said that Tanya Talaga is not impartial in this book. But it would be nearly impossible for her to be so given the shocking situation she is writing about and her own indigenous heritage. But this does not detract from the powerful input of the book. I cannot say I enjoyed reading “Seven Fallen Feathers”. It is a deeply disturbing account Canada’s shameful treatment of its indigenous population. But you will rarely find a book that is more compelling and emotionally evocative. “Seven Fallen Feathers” is a story that had to be told. Tanya Talaga is one of the few authors that could do it justice.
Date published: 2018-09-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from heartbreaking, must-read This is an amazing and heartbreaking work of non-fiction that focuses on the "seven fallen feathers" of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Tanya Talaga discusses how the history of Thunder Bay and Canada's past and current relationships with Indigenous Peoples contributed to the tragic death of 7 high school students from Northern Ontario.
Date published: 2018-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A powerful depiction of systemic racism This book covers difficult and very real examples of systemic racism in Canada...and how it has impacted, and continues to impact communities in this country. A tough, but very important read, for those wishing to understand this reality #plumreview
Date published: 2018-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read for Canadians This is a must read for every Canadian & those interested in learning about systemic racism. Talaga wrote this with the purpose of showing us what systemic racism looks like for the communities affected.
Date published: 2018-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful Book Very powerful and informative book.We have to do more. Every Canadian should read this book. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read If you are looking to educate yourself further in the mistreatment of Canadian Indigenous, then this is a must read. Enlightening and truthful, this book will bring to light a lot of the issues that the Canadian government would prefer to stay hidden. Well written, with lots of facts, but still easily understandable, this books allows you to be educated and entertained at the same time!
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye Opening A great read. We all need to educate ourselves on what is happening to our indigenous youth. This is a great place to start
Date published: 2018-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Required reading This is a must-read for all Canadians. Part history, part detective story, this eye-opening book demonstrates how far we still need to go to combat racism and achieve reconciliation through the tragic stories of seven young people.
Date published: 2018-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful! Mandatory reading for all Canadians to understand not just our shared history but the current injustices suffered by First Nations people. The dark side of colonialism may be a struggle for some to accept but important to move this country forward as a just and caring society. Powerful book for the coming ages.
Date published: 2018-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I love this book pin points all the flaws to make everything else seem flawless
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Essential Oof. This. Read this. Hard truths indeed. Hard. Harrowing. Heartbreaking. Infuriating. Important. Necessary. Embarrassing. It made my heart break, and made me feel helpless, and it’s only a snapshot of the way we fail indigenous children and adolescents.
Date published: 2018-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! Incredibly gripping, well told story that is informed, respectful and complex in equal measure.
Date published: 2018-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyone needs to read this. Talaga does an incredible job of providing a clear and compelling narrative that unites the stories of the seven Indigenous youth featured in the book. The details of each story are paid careful attention and there are many moments where the connections between the lives and stories of the youths are highlighted, but never in a heavy handed way. Even if you think you have a good understanding of the present day impacts of colonialism and the genocide perpetrated against Indigenous people, this book will still leave an impact on you and you will be remembering its pages often and seeing connections everywhere.
Date published: 2018-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read This is a very eye-opening book that all Canadians should read. Well written, heartfelt, and emotional.
Date published: 2018-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An essential on your bookshelf Seven Fallen Feathers sheds light on the racism that is still incredibly prevalent in Canada. This is a must-read for any non-indigenous person who considers themselves to be an ally to indigenous people, or claims to work towards reconciliation.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read Wonderful, colourful and best of all, to the point
Date published: 2018-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read!!! The truths of their hardships...told from a different perspective
Date published: 2018-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent An unfortunate truth is that the book accurately reflects the injustices placed upon First Nations peoples. There is no way to go back and fix the past, but hope instead for reconciliation to try and save the futures of present and future generations.
Date published: 2018-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great use of story to convey research and fact. I was saddened many times throughout the read because of the horrors that our country still refuses to take seriously. The literature gives you a background story of each victim and their family before providing facts about how the country, government, and police have failed the children and continue to fail the people. I can see this book being on my university reading list in the future. Its an eye opening read that I would recommend to anyone who cares about FNMI youth, education, access to resources, and racism in Canada.
Date published: 2018-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from amazing This was so interesting to read, offers different perspectives
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hard but worth it. I mean I didn't really like reading this book. It is hard. But it is excellently written and researched and I learned a lot. I think we should all open our eyes to the horrendous way that Native Canadians are treated in this country.
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you seriously want to make our country a better place, then you should read this!! A concise, factual and poignant account of the systemic failure of our country's treatment of our Ingenious population, with the underlying hypocrisy that we extend humanitarian aid to countries with things like clean water when our northern residents are not provided with the same. The inquest of death of the 7 children came away with lots of recommendation that have yet to be implemented and the Thunder Bay Police has yet to be investigated. This book is a rude awakening that although Canada has been labelled a country that embraces diversity, its treatment of the Indigenous people is far from desirable.
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening and important read for all Canadians A heartbreaking read. I was astonished, dismayed and angry not only with what I read (backed by facts), but at the racism in Thunder Bay, which is so close to home. This should be required reading in high schools. Students should know our history, all of it. Not the cookie-cutter version where we all join hands and sing kumbaya. No longer can we be delusional and make ourselves feel better by saying "but that happened in the USA, not here". Most people have no idea about the residential schools or the sixties scoop, let alone that it's essentially still happening to this day. Well written, easy to follow and understand, the author draws you in while opening your eyes and your mind.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Relevant Really brought to life some of the people affected by the deaths of Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay. I was shocked when I read some of the news articles published a while back about how Thunder Bay police were dismissing suspicious deaths without investigating them as possible hate crimes. This book gives even more background/context/history for these cases and goes a long way to advocating for public support in the struggle against institutional racism.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting An interesting piece on historical narrative. An important read for Canadians in understanding their history.
Date published: 2017-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Current perspective of our history A phenomenal book that puts into perspective how our history is still devastating families. An important read to get a sense of Canadian history that's not being taught in classrooms
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good read Comprehensive and informative.
Date published: 2017-11-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Book Really lays it all out in an easy to access format.Great read
Date published: 2017-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good book Picked it up the day it came out, well worth the time to read. great book
Date published: 2017-09-30

Read from the Book

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.

Editorial Reviews

Winner, 2018 RBC Taylor PrizeFinalist, 2017 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for NonfictionWinner, 2017 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political WritingFinalist, 2017 Speaker's Book AwardFinalist, 2018 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-FictionA Globe And Mail Top 100 BookA National Post 99 Best Book Of The Year"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." - RBC Taylor Prize Jury Citation"In Seven Fallen Feathers, Tanya Talaga delves into the lives of seven Indigenous students who died while attending high school in Thunder Bay over the first eleven years of this century. With a narrative voice encompassing lyrical creation myth, razor-sharp reporting, and a searing critique of Canada's ongoing colonial legacy, Talaga binds these tragedies - and the ambivalent response from police and government - into a compelling tapestry. This vivid, wrenching book shatters the air of abstraction that so often permeates news of the injustices Indigenous communities face every day. It is impossible to read Seven Fallen Feathers and not care about the lives lost, the families thrust into purgatory, while the rest of society looks away." - Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction Jury Citation"Tanya Talaga's powerful book is a hard-hitting story of the realities of Canadian racism, complicity, and Indigenous suffering. It is also a testament to the resilience of the Anishinaabe families who endure the crushing impacts of historic and contemporary injustices. In spare prose and a direct voice, Talaga documents the tragedies of the lost lives of Indigenous youth while creating a compelling narrative that educates the reader on the sad history of Indigenous-White relations. This book is a crucial document of our times, and vital to the emergence of a true vision of justice in Canada." - Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Jury Citation "[A]n urgent and unshakable portrait of the horrors faced by Indigenous teens going to school in Thunder Bay, Ontario, far from their homes and families. . . . Talaga's incisive research and breathtaking storytelling could bring this community one step closer to the healing it deserves." - Booklist, STARRED REVIEW "You simply must read this book. Tanya Talaga has done the hard work for us. She sat with the families, heard their stories. Now, with the keen eye and meticulous research of an uncompromising journalist, she is sharing their truths. We have to start listening. Parents are sending their children to school in Thunder Bay to watch them die. Racism, police indifference, bureaucratic ineptitude, lateral violence - it doesn't have to be this way. Let this book enrage you - and then demand that Canada act now." - Duncan McCue, host of Cross Country Checkup on CBC Radio "Seven Fallen Feathers is achingly blunt in confronting recurring damage that must be repaired. The book puts a human face to the headline statistics, reveals the continuing harm of unequal educational opportunity, and delivers the evidence of systemic racism in Canada with an insistent voice. Tanya Talaga draws the reader into communities of hurt and flawed responses surrounding the deaths of seven Indigenous students, the 'fallen feathers.' Talaga yanks at the reader's complacency with her story of separated families, untethered youths, and the seemingly unbridgeable distance between cultures. She offers painful lessons while courting hope." - BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction Jury Citation "This story is hard and harrowing, but Talaga tells it with the care of a storyteller and the factual attention of a journalist. She makes the difficult connections between this national tragedy and the greater colonial systems that have endangered our most vulnerable for over a century, and she does it all with a keen, compassionate eye for all involved, especially the families who are too often overlooked. These stories need to be heard. These young people deserve nothing less than to be honoured everywhere." - Katherena Vermette, bestselling author of The Break "Once started, this book is difficult to put down. At just over 300 pages, Seven Fallen Feathers moves from one compelling story to the next, and seamlessly weaves in facts and history. The writing is crisp and thoughtful. Seven Fallen Feathers . . . fosters understanding, and is a book that can benefit everyone." - Ottawa Review of Books "Seven Fallen Feathers may prove to be the most important book published in Canada in 2017. Tanya Talaga offers well-researched, difficult truths that expose the systemic racism, poverty, and powerlessness that contribute to the ongoing issues facing Indigenous youth, their families, and their communities. It is a call to action that deeply honours the lives of the seven young people; our entire nation should feel their loss profoundly." - Patti LaBoucane-Benson, author of The Outside Circle "[W]here Seven Fallen Feathers truly shines is in Talaga's intimate retellings of what families experience when a loved one goes missing, from filing a missing-persons report with police, to the long and brutal investigation process, to the final visit in the coroner's office. It's a heartbreaking portrait of an indifferent and often callous system . . . Seven Fallen Feathers is a must-read for all Canadians. It shows us where we came from, where we're at, and what we need to do to make the country a better place for us all." - The Walrus "Talaga's research is meticulous and her journalistic style is crisp and uncompromising. . . . The book is heartbreaking and infuriating, both an important testament to the need for change and a call to action." - Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW "What is happening in Thunder Bay is particularly destructive, but Talaga makes clear how Thunder Bay is symptomatic, not the problem itself. Recently shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, Talaga's is a book to be justly infuriated by." - Globe and Mail "This is a book that everyone should read. . . . [it] will grip you, make you think and help you understand better what has led up to the horrific experiences of young people cut down too soon. It connects the local experience to the larger experience of Canada and is a cry for justice, human rights and respect." - The Chronicle Journal Talaga's work brings stories to the fore when mainstream media have covered them up for decades . . . Seven Fallen Feathers is a difficult read. It deals with death and racism; it tackles pain and suffering head on. Telling the students' stories is also an act of hope and healing based on the certainty that things can be better, and that they must. This book is a solid piece of investigative journalism and should be read, and shared far and wide." - Citizens' Press "Tanya Talaga investigates the deaths of seven Indigenous teens in Thunder Bay - Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Paul Panacheese, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morrisseau, and Jordan Wabasse - searching for answers and offering a deserved censure to the authorities who haven't investigated, or considered the contributing factors, nearly enough." - National Post