Over at https://www.instagram.com/pembylibrary/, (one of my favourite instagram accounts because I am a superfan), one of the regular features of the feed is the weekly Staff Pick. Not only is it a good way to stay up to speed with the new faces who are joining the library, the suggestions are always great. Brennan Armstrong has spent over a year deeply immersed in a lot of Indigenous fiction, so
this week, after Erin’s Progress not Perfection takeover, we’ll explore Brennan’s picks, having happily trawled through the library’s instagram account to celebrate his changing hair, sweater and mask styles, and to dig in to some great reading recommendations.
Today we start with: Seven Fallen Feathers, by Tanya Talaga
From 2000-2011 seven Aboriginal high school students in Thunder Bay were found dead under similar circumstances. 5 of the 7 were discovered in the rivers that feed Lake Superior despite being good swimmers who grew up around the water. Alcohol was a factor in varying degrees. They experience casual and humiliating racism from the townspeople. Police investigations were sloppy and careless. A pattern emerges that anybody familiar with the Picton murders or inquiries into MMIW will recognize.
Talaga does an amazing job weaving the children’s individual stories into a tapestry stretching through the years of residential schooling through the generations to the present day. We get a sense of who these kids are and their place in families and communities that love and cherish them. We also get a sense of the devastation wrought by their loss. These children are not simply statistics.
If Thunder Bay comes off rough in this book, and it does, it isn’t the only or even main villain. Stories like this one could come from many Canadian towns and cities as the root cause of the problems in our relationship with Canada’s first peoples is a system born of and built on an idea of white supremacy. No matter how many of us reject these ideas today our policy is often just a tweak to the original racist playbook. Changing attitudes need to be matched by changing policy if we are interested in justice for every Canadian.
Today the question of racism and equality is more at the forefront of discussion than at any time in my life and as usual our southern neighbor seems to be the focal point of the outrage, deservedly so. However, it’s a lot easier to criticize others than to look hard in the mirror. We all have to be just as willing to stand up to the injustices at home, carried out in our name as these are the ones we can have our say in. Thanks to amazing writers like Tanya Talaga and myriad others like her the stories are out there and easily accessible (at a Public Library maybe?) to anyone interested.
Ignorance isn’t an acceptable excuse anymore.