Themes in Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga


A community or a person might be evaluated based on their historical contributions. Tanya Talaga’s short story “Seven Fallen Feathers” provides an insightful and critical look at a community shaken up due to circumstances that call their morals and value systems into question. It allows the reader to experience the past as a participant rather than an observer. By successfully navigating this obstacle, several repercussions are brought to light, including the composition of the characters, how society views young people, the degree to which they can relate to adults, and the relationship between the local communities and the state. This includes the poor results linked with the overt forms of racism, which the government successfully reinforces through restrictive laws. This essay will make an effort to shed light on the outcomes of these relationships, particularly concerning young adults’ identity and social governance issues.

Theme of Identity

Society rarely gives a second chance to young adults who are still trying to figure out their identities. For instance, a little girl is shown to be subjected to sexual and gender bias in this instance. A number of the chapters in this book focus on indigenous children and young people as examples of people who suffer from discrepancies and imbalances in the modern world. Both the ongoing damaging practices of social work and colonialism perpetuate this element. The young adult demographic is often portrayed as a vulnerable subset of society, with members who have either abandoned their true identities or actively searched for them through various expressions of individualism. According to chapter 4, institutional racism, a dysfunctional educational system, and a broken system have all contributed to the emergence of this situation (Talaga 171). Long-term mental illness contributes to this population’s alarmingly high suicide rate, which is one of the consequences of the problem. The persistent presumption that young people are disobedient and uncooperative leads to this segment of society being ignored, “If you are conditioned not to care, you are conditioned to indifference, and there is a violence to that indifference.” It resulted in fewer options available to them from the community and the state.

Such biases impede her ability to achieve academic success and further reduce her capacity to pursue and succeed in possibilities presented by the wider world. According to chapter 1, this facet of her sexuality comes back to bother her later in life when she gets married and discovers that her husband was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, which led to his becoming a heavy drinker (Talaga 50). Abuse of a sexual nature has more frequently been directed at female children in recent times, “We need to be certain that evil doesn’t exist and one way to deny it didn’t happen is to declare them accidents”. However, there is little question that people of any gender are susceptible to sexual assault. The author does not specify in the narrative whether or not Henry followed up with the relevant authorities regarding the issues (Talaga 78). It indicates how challenging the process of prosecuting the church on sensitive subjects like sexual assault can be.

Young people who have not yet reached the age of 19 tend to present themselves as independent individuals who do not need or want to gain adult approval. In this scenario, the youngsters have no desire to behave like adults. This factor contributes to developing a heightened sense of independence and a natural propensity toward a defiant attitude toward any instruction provided by the adults, “adjusting to the city was a process”. Therefore, adults make it their mission to protect children by involving them in activities with a cultural foundation. For example, as a direct consequence of this, gaps in the decision-making process emerge due to the lack of participation of young people in collaborative planning (Talaga 30). Therefore, the book makes an effort to treat young people and children on an equal footing; however, this is not always successful due to a lack of correlation between how the youth and children view the world based on their previous experiences and how out of touch they are with their indigenous practices.

Theme of Relationships

There is a theme of relationships that is depicted in this book. For instance, there is a relationship between young people and adults and the state. In this context, the relationship between kids and their parents or guardians is essential to human nature. Despite Paul’s tendency to act defiantly, admitting to his mother that he had experimented with various illegal drugs shows that he can feel regret and is prepared to make amends. In addition to this, the fact that he has admitted his wrongdoing and is attempting to get back on track with his schooling demonstrates that he views the situation from his mother’s perspective; one of the residents heard that two men had pushed Jordan off the bridge”. According to Young –Bruehl (2009), the parent was able to establish a rapport with the child, and as a result, she did not regard or reprimand Paul as an object of animosity. This is an excellent illustration of the “Childish” concept, which is respect for children and their rights. Consequently, it paves the way for the child to experience positive mental and physical growth by establishing a willing social support structure started by the parents and embraced by the rest of society.

In chapter 2, the indigenous community is shown to be seriously deteriorating. This is made possible by several foster placements and removals and a detachment from community culture, family, and extended family (Talaga 25). As a result, the Education system is weak and does not contribute to the enrichment of society; as a result of this, there is tension in the connection between the community and the state, as seen by (Talaga 12). The results include widespread school dropouts, leading to generations deficient in necessary skills and capabilities.

Consequently, these young people will not be able to convert into productive individuals in modern society, ultimately leading to low-income households, poverty, poor health or the enjoyment of other benefits triggered by education (Burkhar 171). In this setting, the government is out of touch with the gaps in educational and socioeconomic institutions designed to support the kids in growing themselves and their society. The community leader searched for Jordan in Thunder Bay that he’d had a vision”. Therefore, to construct an effective educational system, the federal government needs to adopt robust educationally-based policies capable of catering to the requirements of the indigenous community. According to Kelly and Kamp (2015), including young adults in research procedures ensures that programs will jointly enhance communities when they are implemented.

Theme of Self-Governance

The distribution of schooling was carried out to raise questions about the indigenous young people’s eligibility for citizenship (Talaga 15). For example, in chapter 3, the education systems in various worldwide settings are built to offer young adults greater prospects and a competitive edge in the global platform. This is discussed with the global platform of self and local governance, “In Ojibwe and Cree culture, leadership didn’t mean power; it meant caring.” However, this was not the case for the rural villages; the youngest people in such areas were sent to residential schools (Talaga 24). These settings are not optimal for intellectual development because they are defined by a lack of finance and resources and by traumatic historical events that have not been resolved.

Consequently, the Canadian socio-educational system does not recognize the citizenship of children among its indigenous young adults. Children’s participation as citizens in evaluating the community’s requirements makes it possible for individuals to engage in social contact, strengthening their sense of belonging to society. According to what Lister has observed, children are social and political players in the processes through which decisions are made (2007). Because of this, it is necessary to have comprehensive frameworks that ensure that young citizens are included in essential decision-making processes and the formation of policies, “The more you search, the more he vanishes.” This consists of the assistance of the state through the provision of sufficient resources.


Tanya Talaga’s book “Seven Fallen Feathers” gives readers an insider’s perspective on the younger members of an indigenous community beset by a high number of deaths among young people. In the background of these scenarios, the themes of identity, relationships, and self-governance are being developed and articulated; each theme depends on the other two themes. The persistent highlighting of the marginalization, systemic racism, and stereotyping of this particular community brings to the forefront the lack of political will to cater to the needs of this community. The results are the unpleasant experiences that have already been had; however, they now present themselves subtler and distressingly. The reader has the opportunity to become interested in real-life occurrences that will impart a different perspective on humanity via the use of this book.

Works Cited

Burkhart, Brett Douglas. “Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City (Tanya Talaga).” Transmotion 4.1. 2018: 171-172.

Kelly, Peter, and Annelies Kamp. A critical youth studies for the 21st century. Brill, 2015.

Talaga, Tanya. Seven fallen feathers: Racism, death, and hard truths in a northern city. House of Anansi, 2017.

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