Final Thoughts on Seven Fallen Feathers

It’s been awhile since I read and wrote parts 1 and 2 pertaining to this book for the #voicEDReads Summer Book Club. Summer is long over, but there’s a reason I have taken so long. I have spent the last couple months digesting everything that I read and I have come to the conclusion that I found the ending unsatisfying. Not because the book is unsatisfying, but because the reality is. I wasn’t happy just responding with iterations of my sadness, my disbelief, my outrage; I needed action and action takes some time.

To that end, I went on a mission to update the book selection in the English program at my school to better reflect the Indigenous perspective. I was able to order a class set of books The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie to use in our grade 11 college level program and we are also using Rumble: the Indians Who Rocked the World in the grade 12 college program. I have a wish list of other titles to add into all our other classes a class or two at a time. Some choices from the short list include: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, and The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings.

I am also exploring the podcast, Thunderbay, hosted by Ryan McMahon on Canadaland — a news site and podcast network funded by its audience whose primary focus is on media criticism and media reporting. The show focuses on Thunderbay, what locals call “Murder Bay”, the most dangerous city for Indigenous Youth in not only Canada, but the world. Thunderbay has the highest homicide and hates crime rate in the country and is the scene of nine tragic deaths of Indigenous high schoolers. Ryan McMahon explores the question: Why does it all happen here?

Reading Seven Fallen Feathers has sparked my curiosity. It’s funny how you notice things more when your curiosity is piqued: I came across this article by Meagan Deuling on Twitter the other day:  With 1 word a day, this man is teaching the world how to speak Inuktitut. Angus Andersen’s Twitter feed (@AndersenAngus) is a font of information about Inuit language and culture. I’m looking forward to sharing this feed with my students. Today’s word seems appropriate:

angus andersen

There certainly IS work to be done to raise awareness and understanding of Indigenous culture in Canada. That being said, I know I felt nervous about teaching Indigenous issues, and still do. My knowledge is only partial and I want to teach it well, too much has been done poorly already. Because I didn’t know where to start and I wanted to make sure that I “did it right”, I did what I do know well – I searched for assistance and guidance. The EdCan Network published this article Truth and Reconciliation in YOUR Classroom How to get started, and who can help by: Dr. Kate Freeman, Shawn McDonald, Dr. Lindsay Morcom and it contains many pointers of where to begin and what to look out for.

They also relay excellent information of what TO do:

It’s not about teaching everything, it’s about having the integrity and humility to teach something – and to teach it in a good way.

  • Do, whenever possible, allow Indigenous people to speak for themselves. Inviting local Indigenous knowledge keepers into your classroom is an opportunity to forge new and ongoing relationships. If an Indigenous person cannot be present, there are excellent and well-vetted videos available.
  • Don’t start with cultural genocide and residential schools. Indigenous people are not victims first. Take the time to learn about the many proud and resilient people who were impacted by Canada’s residential school system.
  • Do learn about contemporary Indigenous people.

Lastly, there are a great many excellent resources online to assist in teaching Indigenous content. A good place to start is the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) who offer a great online resource called It’s Our Time: The AFN Tool Kit.

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