Richard Wagamese’s heart-wrenching novel, Indian Horse, about racial discrimination against the Ojibway First Nation of northern Ontario in 1960s Canada,is a profound read. The emotions are raw and the pain is real. It describes the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of innocent children at the hands of authority figures at St.Jerome’s Residential School, and the victim’s struggle to find a way to survive the pain.
Saul Indian Horse finds a way to repress his abuse by becoming a hockey star—his speed as he skates across the ice gives him a feeling of flight, of being untouchable. To sustain his stardom he must enter the white world where he is subjected to more physical and emotional cruelty from those who think ’hockey is their game’, and where there’s no room for Indian upstarts. His escape from this world of racial slurs and targeted physical abuse leads him to a dark path to self-destruction. To heal, he must confront and let go of the demons that have lurked within him since childhood.
This isn’t only the story of one man’s journey of survival and healing, nor is it strictly about the genocidal attempt to squash the culture of the OjibwayFirst nation—it is the story experienced by all the First Nations of North America and how their respect and devotion of Mother Earth has helped them heal and sustained their spirit to this day. Just as Saul will reclaim his talent as a hockey player by sharing it with the younger ones, Richard Wagamese, in sharing this story, is reclaiming the spirit of all the First Nations peoples who have suffered the evils of discrimination.