By Risa Gluskin, Rapport editor
I started reading Seven Falling Feathers. I could not stop.
Author Tanya Talaga speaking at SWSH-THHSSSC-TGTA PD Conference, Feb. 16, 2018, at Humberside CI in Toronto. Photo courtesy of Ewan Geddes.
Every educator in Ontario should read this book. It reminds us of our fundamental purpose, educating children. One would think that basic features of life, such as humanity, individuality, and community, are present in every Ontario city. How sad, then, when one learns that the teenagers of northwestern Ontario reserves must leave their homes to go to high school in a city where these values seem to be absent, at least for Indigenous young people. Tanya Talaga does a heartfeltly honest job of portraying the seven teens who lost their lives as full human beings with families that loved them, teachers and counsellors that tried to watch over them, and unfortunately, others who took advantage of them or preyed on them.
As almost all teachers in Ontario are soon to be experiencing revised curriculum based on the Ministry of Education’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, this is the perfect book to read for context. It links the teenagers’ stories to the long-term effects of Residential Schools and clearly makes the argument that having to leave home to go to high school is just another form of residential school. It links to the inequity of jury selection, a very current topic. Also connected are systemic flaws such as police bias and inequity of funding for Indigenous education.
Sadly, safety was most lacking for the seven students who lost their lives upon going to live in Thunder Bay to attend high school.
As teachers, we take it for granted that everyone should be educated in a safe environment. Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers reminds us to work for that to become a reality for every student.
You will find many posts related to Indigenous history in this month’s edition of Rapport. As always, if you’d like to comment or contribute, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.