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Seven Fallen Feathers

author: Tanya Talaga (2017)
date read: 16 March 2023
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A brutal but necessary account of abuse, neglect, and death of Indigenous students in Canada’s school systems. It mostly focuses on seven deaths in Thunder Bay, but also explains the history for residential schools which are the context for current events.

The titular “Seven Fallen Feathers” are seven children who died in unexplained circumstances. The book devotes a chapter to each of them, describing their history, the days leading up to their death, and the hole it created in the lives of friends and family left behind. It’s difficult to read but important, and the author has obviously done a lot of research and interviews.

There are certain themes that keep coming up – racism towards Indigenous people, disinterest from the Thunder Bay police, the effect of moving kids to big cities – but the author is almost subtle about them. She doesn’t need to tell you what patterns you should be seeing, because it’s so obvious from the stories.

Content warnings for death, suicide, racism and colonialism – it’s far from an easy book to read, but well-written and worthwhile if you can.

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