Anishinaabe truths told in podcast companion to Tanya Talaga's 'Spirit to Soar'
Two new projects continue the work of Talaga’s 2017 bestseller Seven Fallen Feathers
In some ways, this story begins in 2011, when journalist Tanya Talaga first learned of seven First Nation students who went to Thunder Bay for high school and never came home.
In other ways, it begins with the Indian Act, the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, Confederation, broken treaties and first contact.
Now Talaga's truth-telling project, which previously inspired her first book and led to her being the the first Anishinaabe CBC Massey Lecturer, has grown to include a documentary and a limited-run podcast.
'A story of strength and bravery'
The new podcast Spirit to Soar: Where We Come From is a companion to Talaga's debut documentary Spirit to Soar, Mashkawi-manidoo bimaadiziwin, respectively releasing via CBC Podcasts and CBC Gem in September 2021.
Podcast release date via CBC Podcasts
Friday, Sept. 17: Spirit to Soar: Where We Come From (podcast)
Documentary release date via CBC Gem
These projects connect to the Anishinaabe kwe journalist's 2017 book, Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City, and 2018 Massey Lecture series All Our Relations: Finding A Path Forward.
Talaga's book received high praise across Turtle Island and made national bestsellers lists. Both texts are now taught in many high schools, colleges and universities, offering opportunities to learn the history of how we got to where we are.
With the new documentary Spirit to Soar: Mashkawi-manidoo bimaadiziwin, Talaga takes a close, hard look at what has changed since the inquest into the deaths of the students, the seven fallen feathers, at the heart of her book, and how one pursues justice for loved ones in a system heaving with inequities.
"At its heart, this film is a story of the strength and bravery First Nations youth face every single day, when they walk out the front door and head to high school in a country that has tried to erase them," Talaga has said of the documentary.
Spirit to Soar: Where We Come From
Meanwhile, the new podcast companion, Spirit to Soar: Where We Come From, explores related territory: delving into "the four disruptions" to Indigenous lives, which aimed to colonize and assimilate distinct communities into the fabric of what is now called Canada.
Host Jolene Banning, a close collaborator of Talaga's, says the podcast, captures the process of "unlearning and relearning the truth, healing, teaching, doing all the heavy lifting."
Banning is an Anishinaabe journalist living and working from her home territory of Fort William First Nation, from which Talaga's mother also hails. Banning's work highlights Anishinaabe beauty and cultural strength. She also has a CBC Thunder Bay syndicated column; Stories From Anemki Wajiw.
Banning co-hosts the podcast with Anishinaabe Elder Sam Achneepineskum, a respected knowledge keeper and residential school survivor from Marten Falls First Nation.
Achneepineskum and Banning narrate the four-part podcast in Anishinaabemowin first, and then English.
"It's time for all of us to learn the truth even if that feels uncomfortable. Sit with it, feel it, own it. We can no longer sweep things under the rug, or say it's a reputation problem, or 'there is nothing I can do'," says Banning.
'Stop the excuses'
Banning is especially mindful of the ongoing context in which the podcast is being released, just months after the remains of 215 children were discovered on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops. Many similar discoveries have followed, and many more are still expected.
"This came as no surprise to many Indigenous Peoples. What angered me was when people responded with utter shock and surprise," says Banning, adding that it's time to "stop the excuses."
She hopes the podcast offers yet another opportunity to learn about our collective history and to set the record straight by learning Anishinaabe truths.
"Start taking action to right the wrongs and harms caused."
Further reading recommendations from Jolene Banning: