Indian Horse

Indian Horse  by Richard Wagamese.

“Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.

With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.” (Goodreads)

This was an excellent book, and a fairly quick read! I loved the very first page where there’s a description of the features of the First Nations people and how those features relate to the environment they live in.

They say that our cheekbones are cut from those granite ridges that rise above our homeland. They say that the deep brown of our eyes seeped out of the fecund earth that surrounds the lakes and marshes. The Old Ones say that our long straight hair comes from the waving grasses that thatch the edges of bays. Our feet and hands are broad and flat and strong, like the paws of the bear.” (p 1)

What an interesting concept! I love it!

There’s a residential school involved and all the pain that goes with that…even just reading the words can be difficult…can’t imagine actually experiencing that. Another excerpt about Saul’s arrival at the school:

They took me to St. Jerome’s Indian Residential School. I read once that there are holes in the universe that swallow all light, all bodies. St. Jerome’s took all the light from my world.” (p 42)

Wow! I can only imagine that that phrase “took all the light from my world” wholly and completely describes such a change in his life and lifestyle.

There’s also a focus on hockey, as Saul finds something that he loves to do and at which he is extremely gifted. I don’t watch hockey (I’d rather be reading) but the way Wagamese described Saul’s experience with discovering hockey and how it felt like he was flying, really brought some magic to the sport for me!

Just one more excerpt from the book that really resonated with me, and seemed to sum up for me the pain…which is unimaginable:

When your innocence is stripped from you, when your people are denigrated, when the family you came from is denounced and your tribal ways and rituals are pronounced backward, primitive, savage, you come to see yourself as less than human. That is hell on earth, that sense of unworthiness. That’s what they inflicted on us.”

*My progress for this Challenge is 14/13!!

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