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“Seven Fallen Feathers” by Tanya Talaga Essay

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2021

Introduction

The book under discussion is written by Tanya Talaga and is called Seven Fallen Feathers. The whole plot rests on the deaths of seven Indigenous young people in Thunder Bay. Using this dramatic event as the background for the story, the author touches upon such important issues as racism, neocolonialism, and all forms of discrimination presented in modern society that is expected to be tolerant and humane. The book was firstly published in 2017 and became a significant event in the world of literature. According to the author’s words, the idea of this work emerged under the impact of the real problems people belonging to minorities face in their everyday life (Patrick, 2017). Being a news reporter, Tanya Talaga collected the material about the situation in Canada and federal elections as indigenous people were not planning on voting (Patrick, 2017). Communicating with the representatives of this group, the author discovered that the story with seven dead young people is more complex and sophisticated and should be provided to readers for them to know about how discriminated individuals might live.

Summarizing the story, it is critical to say that it provides the needed context that can help to understand all events described in the book and problems that can be associated with them. First of all, Talaga (2017) offers a detailed history of the area near Lake Superior. She emphasizes the fact that in the past it was a meeting place of all Indigenous people who lived here (Talaga, 2017). However, in the course of development, it transformed into the center of the fur trade and finally, into a modern city with all its peculiarities and problems. The given detailed description of the background of the whole story is needed for individuals to understand the tragedy of seven students who died near the Lake. They had to travel to Thunder Bay to attend a high school and face multiple obstacles. In such a way, the story is a detailed description of every individual’s life and their personalities, family situation, and specific conditions under which they had to live.

Arguments

Analyzing the book and the main ideas presented in it, one should note that there are several issues that can be related to the problems society faces. First of all, Talaga introduces all these students collectively trying to show that existing issues affect wide groups of the population. By utilizing this very approach, the author wants to emphasize the systemic character of the problem which resulted in the death of seven people. One of these problematic spheres is residential schools that still remain a disputable topic. In the book, one can find the idea that this sort of educational establishment has a negative impact on the young generation (Talaga, 2017). They are considered remnants of the past when the government tried to remove Indigenous children from the influence of their natural cultures and families (The residential school system, n.d.). That is why these schools were used as a potent tool of colonizers to increase the speed of assimilation and eliminate traditions and beliefs that were considered hostile.

Today, the situation changed as in accordance with the official ideology and course, all people regardless of their beliefs and nationality should be provided with equal opportunities for their development. Unfortunately, in fact, the categories of identity, whiteness, class, and geographic location play a significant role in the Canadian North. The existing residential school system is one of the examples provided in the text as it contributes to the deterioration of the institution of family and the native culture of people. Speaking about this issue, the author uses her own experience as the great-grandmother used to attend this type of school which apparently impacted the whole family (Patrick, 2017). In such a way, the book offers an in-depth look at the problems of people who have to survive in a society that is considered humane and travel many miles to reach educational establishments and continue their education.

The imperfection, discriminative, and neocolonial character of this system becomes another issue raised by Talaga in the book. Revolving around the death of seven people, she states that today young individuals experience restricted and limited opportunities to continue their education because of the absence of the appropriate establishments at their homes. Moreover, the government and local authorities do not promote change or introduce some additional measures to improve the situation. The author shows that after the accident with Chanie Wenkack in 1966, who died after running away from residential schools, there were many recommendations on how to avoid repetition of such situations in the future and guarantee better conditions for indigenous people (Talaga, 2017). Unfortunately, none of these recommendations were implemented, and the life of communities remained unchanged.

Today, thousands of young people have to move far from their homes to unknown and sometimes even hostile cities to become victims of biased attitudes, racism, and discrimination. Additionally, the police, as the main authority responsible for the monitoring of the situation, becomes indifferent to such cases which are evidenced by these deaths described in the book. White settlers prefer to close their eyes to acts of violence considering them rare and isolated accidents, but not part of the existing system. In all the seven stories, there are apparent continuities of violence that are embodied in these students’ desire to commit suicide to escape from this reality and horrible conditions of reserves. At the same time, alcohol becomes another aspect that should be related to this cohort because of its pernicious impact on described populations and individuals’ lives.

Furthermore, using this situation, the author delves into the peculiarities of a long struggle for human rights and people’s desire to preserve their native culture. By presenting each student separately, Talaga can show how these persons tried to survive in a world that was considered free and tolerant. At the same time, their examples show that there are still multiple manifestations of institutional violence and colonialism in modern Canada which can be considered as a heritage from past times when people utilized discriminative patterns while cooperating with representatives of other cultures. Today, there are still biased attitudes that result in the emergence of situations such as those described in the book. In such a way, Talaga tries to attract readers’ attention to the existing cases of human rights violations and make them think about circumstances that preconditioned these young people’s death.

Finally, the author wants to present the idea that history is one of the integral parts of society as it impacts the way society evolves and functions. Today, society still experiences a set of negative factors that are associated with its colonial past (Kim, 2015). Regardless of multiple attempts to eliminate all barriers for equal cooperation between all members of communities, there are still many issues that deteriorate results and precondition the emergence of such problematic cases. For this reason, the author is sure that all of the seven fallen feathers represent a struggle against neocolonialism attempting to preserve their own culture.

To make the effect of her words stronger, Talaga uses a specific manner of writing that emphasizes the character of the discussed problem and how it affects society. The book’s composition and peculiarities of style show that the author is concerned with the described events and tries to convey the main message to readers (Talaga, 2017). Using the first person while speaking about the problems the young people faced, Talaga sounds very personal which makes people believe her story and follow all events described. It is one of the effective approaches to convey the main message and guarantee that other individuals will try to think about it, analyzing the current situation and concluding about the necessity of change.

Moreover, there is a certain structure peculiar to the book as it starts from the description of the past of the area and its unique significance in the life of Indigenous people. Utilizing the given approach, the author manages to contrast the two epochs and compare the role the discussed area played in the life of different groups of people. It becomes one of the central peculiarities of the book as correctly realizing conditions that preconditioned the emergence of these tragic events, readers can also make some conclusions about the future of their communities and how it should evolve to observe human rights and provide all people with equal opportunities for their development. In such a way, Talaga manages to make her words more convincing by using an unusual structure of the book and a particular style that attracts readers and makes them think about the current situation.

Summary

Altogether, the discussed book delves into an important topic of discrimination and problematic relations between representatives of various communities. Speaking about the position of Indigenous people, Talaga (2017) not just repeats already known statements about the necessity to improve their state. Instead, she uses a real and disputable situation involving the death of seven young people to attract the attention of communities and reveal all remnants of the past that still remain topical for modern society. The author is sure that the system of residential schools can be considered an obsolete heritage of the colonial period when the government tried to depress the culture of local people and cultivate their own traditions and beliefs. Unfortunately, today a similar situation can be observed as representatives of this group has to move to a hostile city to continue their education and integrate with society. It also preconditions corruption of families and multiple psychological traumas, which is unacceptable in the modern humane society.

The story Seven Fallen Feathers by Talaga can be taken as an example of a work that touches upon the problems topical for the Canadian North. There are no serious shortcomings in the paper as the author delves into an important and relevant issue. Using lively language and specific structure, she manages to sound convincing, making readers believe in the story told by her and realize the real scope of the problem that arises today. A significant part of modern communities faces a biased attitude and suffer from the imperfection of the existing system which poses a threat to their further development and integration. For this reason, books similar to the discussed one become a potent tool that can be used to attract people’s attention to the existing problem and trigger the public discussion aimed at the improvement of the current situation and offering possible solutions to the problem that can help discriminated minorities to become the part of the modern world.

References

Kim, E. (2015). McGill Journal of Education, 50(1). Web.

Patrick, R. (2017). CBC. Web.

(n.d.). Web.

Talaga, T. (2017). Seven fallen feathers. Toronto, Canada: House of Anansi Press.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Seven Fallen Feathers" by Tanya Talaga." July 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/seven-fallen-feathers-by-tanya-talaga/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Seven Fallen Feathers" by Tanya Talaga'. 7 July.

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