Walk with Tanya Talaga on a journey through the Seven Grandfather Teachings that guide Anishinaabe life
Love, respect, honesty, bravery, humility, wisdom and truth. These are the seven truths taken from the Seven Grandfather Teachings handed down orally through generations of Anishinaabe elders. They are guideposts, directions and, as Tanya Talaga explains, they’re how the Anishinaabe see the world and themselves in it.
Tanya Talaga is an award-winning author and journalist and she was also named one of the top 50 influential Torontonians of 2020 by Toronto Life. In the new Audible Original Seven Truths, she takes listeners on a journey to learn about these seven teachings. With each new episode, Talaga examines a different one through contemporary stories about the lives of Indigenous people today. She’s also joined by Sam Achneepineskum, someone Talaga refers to as her elder and an elder at the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay. He is present throughout the series to explain the truths in his own language, Anishinaabemowin. Talaga’s aim is to show how each lesson provides guidance and strength to Indigenous people who are still fighting for basic human rights.
Hard Truths in a Northern Town
Talaga’s byline has appeared with Canadian news outlets like the Toronto Star and Globe & Mail for over 20 years, where she’s fought to bring Indigenous issues to the mainstream long before many newsrooms made space for them. She’s been nominated for the Michener Award five times for public service in journalism and she was a Massey Lecturer in 2018. Raised in Toronto, Talaga is Ojibwe with roots in Fort William First Nation.
Her journalism reached new acclaim with Seven Fallen Feathers, an incisive investigation into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay over a period of 12 years. They had all come to Thunder Bay from places kilometres away to attend high school. Far from home at a young age, they faced racism and loneliness. Ultimately, Seven Fallen Feathers is a history and critique of institutional racism and colonialist policies, and how that legacy led to the deaths of seven promising youths.
With her follow-up, Seven Truths, Talaga returns to Thunder Bay to see if conditions have changed for the Indigenous community in northwestern Ontario and across Canada.
“Seven Words, Seven Ways of Life”
When Talaga returns to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, she’s guided by 17-year-old Kaiden, who has moved 500 kilometres from home, leaving behind his family and community for the chance to graduate from high school. Every morning he faces a foreign, hostile city to do so.
Indigenous students from northern communities with no access to a high school education travel hundreds of kilometers to attend DFC. Some are as young as 13 when they have to leave their families behind to pursue their diploma, and it’s where some of the students whose stories Talaga told in Seven Fallen Feathers went to school. In one episode of Seven Truths, she speaks to today’s students to see if anything has changed for them, and to explore the teaching of bravery. According to her, students at DFC are some of the bravest people around:
“In my eyes, these young people are the bravest of all. At this moment in history, Turtle Island is heaving with inequities. People are frustrated, tired and angry over decades of systemic racism. Others are waking up to the reality of what those who live it already know, that if you are Black or Indigenous, you're at a greater risk of dying at the hands of the police, of being jailed in record numbers, of being unfairly judged or completely ignored by the powers that be, that you have to work harder to be seen and to be heard as a human being.”
These are the kinds of stories you can expect to hear in Seven Truths. You’ll hear about Autumn Peltier, a water protector and climate activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation who has been drawing attention to the lack of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities across Canada. You’ll hear from Rachel Green and her brother Cowen of Shoal Lake #39 First Nation, who have been fighting with the City of Winnipeg over its diversion of millions of gallons of water from Shoal Lake, disrupting fisheries and the growth of wild rice for their community.
With each of the teachings explained in this series, Talaga speaks to activists, elders and community members about their lives and their struggles for justice. These are the people who embody the seven teachings Talaga shares with us.
A Fight for Rights and Recognition
Institutional racism and colonial policies are still present in Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has made it clear that there are still real actions governments and Canadians need to take to build an equitable society that recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples. But there is a story behind that story: the lives of people fighting for those rights and facing systemic oppression. Those are the stories Talaga shares along with the Seven Grandfather Teachings in this bold new series.
Canadians are starting to listen. More Indigenous stories are being published and produced across numerous media platforms and they’re reaching audiences who want to listen and learn. As movements across the globe bring struggles for civil rights and equality into public awareness, now is the time to listen to voices from communities once kept in the dark.
If you’re interested in more stories like those in Seven Truths, you can find more audiobooks from Indigenous authors on Audible.
Tanya Talaga has spent years speaking about the experiences of Indigenous people and the struggles they face. With Seven Truths, she examines the difficult trials their communities have gone through and the challenges they still experience today.