For my Journey Towards Reconciliation project, I took inspiration from ECS 110, another Education Core Studies class I’m in concurrently. In our section, which is focused on anti-oppressive education, we were assigned the book Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga. In the book, Talaga focuses on the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students in Thunder Bay, Ontario as a result of poor living conditions and social stigmas. In addition, she delves into the poor quality of life experienced by Indigenous people in Thunder Bay and all over Canada and elaborates on the history and reasons behind these issues. Inspired by the class and the book, I made a diorama of a teepee on a campsite. The teepee is surrounded by seven dead trees, which I used to symbolize the seven dead youth discussed in the book.

The diorama, held by my friend that helped me construct it

Researching teepees gave me even more insight into traditional Indigenous culture, which was very fascinating and informative. All in all, the research involved for the project taught me a lot about Indigenous life and the issues faced by today’s Indigenous population.

Below are a few quotes from my write-up:

“Violence against the Indigenous population is a serious issue in modern Canada. Even after the days of colonization and residential schools, and even in a day and age in which the world strives to be progressive and equal, Indigenous people are still being targeted for violence.”

While the deaths of the seven Indigenous youth seem unrelated upon first glance, Talaga clearly establishes that there is indeed a connection between each and every one of them. While the connection may not seem direct or obvious, it is made clear that it does exist. Along with the deaths of the seven youth, Talaga also discusses social issues such as violence, prejudice, and drug/alcohol abuse within the Indigenous community.

As the book makes clear, all seven of the youth had similar living situations: they were from remote reservations far away from Thunder Bay, they were sent to Thunder Bay to get a formal education, and they lived in the aforementioned boarding homes (Talaga, 2017, p. 18). Their deaths were all classified as accidents (p. 281) and the families were given little information and only received such information a good while after the deaths occurred and were investigated (p. 283).

 “The deaths are a tragedy and clearly a sign of something much greater going on in Canadian society with regards to Indigenous people and their lives, and Talaga does a terrific job making light of this.