Indian Horse PDF – Overview
Indian Horse is a novel by Canadian writer Richard Wagamese, published by Douglas & McIntyre in 2012. The novel centres on Saul Horse, a First Nations boy from Ontario who survives the residential school system and becomes a talented ice hockey player, only for his past traumas to resurface in his adulthood.
Wagamese’s best known work, Indian Horse won the 2013 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature, and was a competing title in the 2013 edition of Canada Reads. A film adaptation, was directed by Stephen Campanelli and premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. As of 2022, it is available for streaming on Netflix.
Plot summary of Indian Horse
In 1961, the Indian Horse family—an Ojibway family consisting of eight-year-old Saul, his grandmother Naomi, and his Christian parents John and Mary—live in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, hiding from the authorities, who previously took Saul’s siblings, Benjamin and Rachel, to residential schools.
When Benjamin suddenly returns after escaping a residential school, the family moves to Gods Lake, a remote region where their ancestors lived. Benjamin soon dies of tuberculosis, and his parents take his body away on a canoe to be blessed by a priest, leaving Saul with his grandmother.
Winter sets in but the parents have not returned; Naomi tries to lead Saul to Minaki for shelter, but their canoe is overturned in rapids. Suffering from the freezing cold, they run out of supplies, and Naomi dies at a railway depot outside Minaki. Saul is found by the authorities and is taken to St. Jerome’s Indian Residential School in White River.
At St. Jerome’s, headed by Father Quinney and Sister Ignacia, Saul witnesses daily abuse of the children; some die, commit suicide, or are traumatized. The same year, new priest Father Gaston Leboutilier joins the faculty, and he quickly becomes popular with the boys. He constructs a hockey rink outside and forms a hockey team composed of older boys.
After watching Hockey Night in Canada on a television, Saul begs Father Leboutilier to allow him to play, but he is prevented from doing so because of his young age. Father Leboutilier allows Saul to clean the rink each morning, and Saul uses part of that time to practice hockey. After a player is injured during a scrimmage, Father Leboutilier allows Saul to play and is astounded by his high skill level.
Father Quinney, noticing Saul’s talent, allows him to join the team. St. Jerome’s plays against White River, and Saul leads his team to victory. Father Leboutilier begins to practice and train with Saul. Saul is invited to play for the White River midget hockey team, though he is soon kicked out over his ethnicity.
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