The “Indian Horse” is a novel written by a Canadian citizen known as Richard Wagamese and published in 2012 by Douglas and McIntyre. The Indian Horse was one of the best works of Richard Wagamese, and in 2013 it won the Burt Award for First Nations, Metis and Inuit literature. The novel revolves around on Saul Indian Horse, a First Nations boy with the ability to survive the Indian Residential school system and finally become a star ice hockey player when he grew up. The environment in the residential school was oppressive in such a way that Saul could not speak his language or even embrace his cultural practices. Wagamese himself played amateur hockey, and he loved Ice hockey game. Due to this reason, in the beginning, he wanted to write about the ice hockey game, but progressively the legacy of the residential school system became a crucial topic of his story. According to Wagaseme, “Indian Horse” is the most emotional novel he has ever written and that why the novel took him more time to write than he expected. Wagamese himself never attended a residential school system, but the system affected him since his parents and other family members survived the system.
The development of Saul Indian Horse’s Life
The story of Saul begins in the rural of northern Ontario where he lived with his parents, grandmother and his older brother who was known as Ben. Their main activities were hunting and fishing. Saul’s family believed that if they could live far outside town, could enable them to keep their boys away from the residual school. However, the government’s men managed to hunt them down and took Ben by force at gunpoint. Their parents became devastated and turned into alcohol. Saul Indian Horse shares his life history with Richard as his aunt broke his left arm and shoulder when he was less than a year old.
Moreover, in February 1958, his parents abandoned Richard and his two siblings in the bush. In the Indian Horse novel, Saul’s parents abandon him with his grandmother in the bush. The implication is that they have been preoccupied with drinking the same case to Wagamese’s parents. Like Saul Indian Horse, Richard and his siblings got as far as the Minaki railroad platform then the police turned them over to the Children’s Aid Society, making Wagamese part of the mass removal of Indigenous children. At this point, they can leave rural and moves to town. A few years later, Ben runs away from school and returns to his parents. His return reignites the family’s hope, and then decides to back to the rural. They decide to get much deeper to the bush at the God’s lake called Manitou Gaming where they believe is their spiritual home. In this place, Ben dies of tuberculosis and the parents bitterly abandons Saul with his grandmother. Finally, Saul lands at Saint Jerome’s residential school where the true definition of education is oppression the abuse of rights. One of the priests introduces the student to the ice hockey game where Saul becomes an expert. Saul’s career progresses very well from unofficial tournaments to the minor league in Toronto. However, his skills on the ice game attract rage from white, and that is when his opponents and the fellow teammates began to be jealous of his good play. This is according to the “in the black heart of northern Ontario in the 1960s.”
Saul in Professional League in Hockey Career
Saul is introduced to moose hockey team where he emergences as their star and gains much respect from other players regardless of the facts that he was the youngest in the team. More frequently, their team starts playing against the best teams in Canada and often winning their matches. Saul is introduced into a professional league in Toronto and performs very well. In his new team in Toronto, Saul encounters rejection and his teammates start mocking him for being so indigenous (Yetman 64). The journalists call him “savage” and a “crazy redskin” even when he performs very well in the team. Saul starts becoming very aggressive while playing and most of the time fight with his opponents. Following this, Saul has kicked off the team and goes back home.
Soul decides to go to town to look for a better living. In town, Soul gets a small job with a low payment, and he spends on alcohol all he gets. Sometimes his coworkers make him feel inferior for being indigenous and he usually fights them back. By 1978, Soul is already addicted to alcohol. He starts living with a farmer known as Ervin who decided to treat him as his son. Ervin helps him to tackle the problem of alcohol addiction, but Soul becomes unable and uncomfortable and decides to leave even without informing Ervin. Soul tries to quit drinking, but due to a long time addiction, he ends up in hospital. Saul goes to New Dawn Center Rehabilitation when he is counseled by Moses for some time to recover from alcoholism. Soul decides to go back to St Jerome which now completely in ruins. In St Jerome, he starts to the flashback when he was a student and starts to blame his father. The confused Soul journeys out and goes back to God’s lake where he sees a vision of his great-grandfather who tells him that he must learn on how to carry God’s lake by himself. Soul visits back Kelly family and tells them that he has realized his past in the residential school, but they tell him that they all share similar experiences concerning residential school. They encourage Soul to stay with them and promise to support him to rebuild. Soul rejoins a local hockey team and creates friendship and works hard with experience motives (Abdou and Jamie 93). Finally, Soul is happy for having loyal friends and a caring adopted family which motives him and gives him hope that the future will be bright.
Brian Klopotek view of the hypermasculine
Brian Klopotek argues that colonizing culture has disseminated some stereotypes of Indigenous males that continue to have great influence on the people of Canada. For almost a century, hyper-masculinity has been one of the foremost attributes of the Indian world that Whites have imagined. Klopotek maintains that the Indian, as imagined in colonial society, includes images of noble or ignoble savages, wise old chiefs, and cunning warriors that comprise an impossibly masculine race. The colonizing function concerning hypermasculinity is to test who is powerful between the indigenous Indians and the white. In the novel Indian horse, Soul reacts to his opponents and beats them up when they start mistreating him. This shows that the indegenegious are more masculine compared to the colonizers because they were able to fight and regain their independence. Saul redefines masculinity as re-establishing caring relationships with others in his Anishinaubae community, especially within his extended kinship. Saul rediscovers the joy he found in the hockey game by giving the same joy to the children of his community. In committing himself to be their coach, Saul embraces a non-dominative and nurturing profession. Saul affirms Indigenous manhood that serves the values of health in his community by ensuring that the children engage in physical activities to keep their bodies strong inorder to protect the community. A significant part of this redefined masculinity and reconnection with the community is his reunion with the Kelly family and his motives to serve his community.
Masculinity underscoring destructive Colonial Legacy
In contrast to the destructive colonial simulation of hypermasculinity, the novel presents this alternative warrior ethic as a way of bringing peace to the lives of Indigenous people. Saul has a vision of his great-grandfather, who bestows a blessing upon Saul’s reconnection with his tribal land when the great grandfather tells him he has come to carry the place within him. However, he is informed that that is the place of beginnings and endings of the people in his community. The first of the “beginnings” means is Saul’s return to his spiritual place to dream, to mourn, and to pray for the blessings to come upon him and other members of his community. Saul allows sense of sorrow, desperation, loneliness and regret to get out of him. Then he prays aloud, signaling his return to the traditional Anishinaubae posture of the individual who is not alone but connected to numerous spiritual beings of his ancestral place. The recovery of the ability to pray is a key point in Saul’s recovery of his Anishinaubae tradition.
Vizenor drives out the meaning of the very word Indian where he points out as the manifest manner or a simulation that reduces all Indigenous individuals to the image that represent all Indians and their cultures. Vizenor describes the process of bringing all Indians together as the contrivance of the other in the course of dominance where he believes that unity can bring greater things in the community. Alfred says that the images of the violent of Indigenous warriors are foils for the White conquest of North America due to the masculinity portrayed among the indigenous warriors. The colonizing function of these images of impossible hypermasculinity is to invent a powerful opponent who must be repeatedly defeated. These images pre-empt the possibility of peaceful co-existence with multi-dimensional Indigenous males by establishing mental constructions that predetermine continued interracial violence. Alfred describes it as the images which are not meant to be lived with but meant to be killed. Sports writers and cartoonists portray Saul persistently as an embodiment of the hypermasculine Indian warrior with counting coup, on a raid and carrying a war lance among others. Because Saul is a gifted playmaker, opposing teams harass him until he retaliates and gradually, his role on the team shifts from playmaker to intimidator or just a goon. This portrays where Saul says that if they wanted him to be a savage that is what he would give them.
Saul Indian Horse is an inspiring novel that everyone needs to read both Canada and everywhere in the world since it impacts into lives and the novel mindset is based on people’s daily lives and what happens in people’s circuit lifespan. I have discussed the life process of Saul Indian Horse and his masculinity roles in the development of his community. From a young boy in a residential school to a star in a hockey game and how masculinity impacted him in being sent out of the game and finally became alcoholism. The return of Saul into his ancestral land shaved life because he realized that there were duties ahead of him, which were needed by other members of his community.
Cindy Blackstock clarifies that the state’s depredations on Indigenous families continue with
the number of Indigenous children who are now three times the number it was at the height of residential schools. Cindy further says that every one in ten First Nations children is now in
alternative care compared to one in two hundred for non-First Nations. However, reserves receive 22% less funding for child care than other Canadian jurisdictions.
Yetman, Daniel Thomas. Musclebound: A Novel. Diss. University of Saskatchewan, 2019.
Abdou, Angie, and Jamie Dopp, eds. Writing the Body in Motion: A Critical Anthology on Canadian Sport Literature. Athabasca University Press, 2018.