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384 pages, Paperback
First published September 30, 2017
Thunder Bay has always been a city of two faces. The Port Arthur side is the white face and the Fort William side is the red face. Port Arthur lies on the north shore. It is built up on the gentle, sloping Canadian Shield. Two-storey brick houses line streets that run up and down the Shield, each with a beautiful view of Lake Superior as far as the Sibley Peninsula, where the stone-cold Sleeping Giant Nanabijou sleeps.
The red side is located down by the Kaministiquia (known locally as the Kam) River, on the Ojibwe’s traditional lands near the base of Mount McKay in the flatlands known as Fort William. Except for one tiny enclave of grand homes near Vickers Park, built by the affluent of another time, the residential streets of Fort William are staunchly working class, small bungalows or two-storey homes in various stages of repair, most with a pickup truck parked out front.
To understand the stories of the seven lost students who are the subjects of this book, the seven “fallen feathers”, you must understand Thunder Bay's past, how the seeds of division, of acrimony and distaste, of a lack of cultural awareness and understanding, were planted in those early days, and how they were watered and nourished with misunderstanding and ambivalence. And you must understand how the government of Canada has historically underfunded education and health services for Indigenous children, providing consistently lower levels of support than for non-Indigenous kids, and how it continues to do so to this day. The white face of prosperity built its own society as the red face powerlessly stood and watched.