September 2018
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Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese


This is the life journey of Saul Indian Horse named after his grandfather Solomon.  “My people are from the Fish Clan of the northern Ojibway, the Anishinabeg, we call ourselves. We made our home in the territories along the Winnipeg River, where the river opens wide before crossing into Manitoba before it leaves the Lake of the Woods and the rugged spine of northern Ontario.” The story covers roughly the first thirty-five years of Saul’s life: it begins and ends in the New Dawn Centre, a treatment facility.

Indian Horse - CopyThe first 116 pages is an account of his time on the land with his immediate clan members when he absorbs an understanding of his people and establishes his identity. His brother Benjamin is taken by government agents to the residential school but Saul and his sister are hidden from the agents.  Events eventually result in Saul’s being sent to the residential school, St. Jeromes, known by the children there as St. Germs. Saul builds a defense for himself as a quiet, studious boy but he is enticed away from this by the hockey rink and starts out shovelling off the ice at 4:30 every morning. He is small but teaches himself to skate and stick handle. He sees the happenings at the school: “I saw kids die of tuberculosis, influenza, pneumonia and broken hearts.” but “what I let them see was a quiet, withdrawn boy, void of feeling.” “Father Leboutilier was my ally.” “There was always the ritual of shovelling the snow and clearing the ice, that solitary work of preparing to open the doors to a magical kingdom.” And up to a point the magical kingdom keeps Saul going.  He is recruited for The Moose, a native team and then he is recruited for the Toronto Marlboros and it is then that life’s cracks begin to change him. This is a story both uplifting and heart breaking and deserves its place as a Canada Reads selection: a story everyone can delight in and learn from and, by reading it, gain a better understanding of the native experience.

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