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"Indian Horse": Analysis of The Effects of Forced Assimilation

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Published: Jun 5, 2019

Words: 2063 | Pages: 5 | 11 min read

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Introduction, indian horse analysis.

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essay about indian horse

essay about indian horse

Indian Horse

Richard wagamese, everything you need for every book you read..

Saul Indian Horse is an Indigenous Canadian and a member of the Fish Clan, a tribe that lives near the Winnipeg River. He grows up in the early 1960s with his parents, John Indian Horse and Mary Mandamin , his two siblings, and his grandmother Naomi . At an early age, his brother, Benjamin , and his sister, Rachel , are kidnapped by white Canadians in the area and sent to Christian schools where the teachers’ primary aim is to “remove the Indian from” them. At the time, all Indigenous Canadian children are required by law to attend such schools, which means that Canadian authorities have the legal right to tear families apart, often using kidnapping to do so.

After they lose their children, Saul’s parents begin drinking heavily, and migrate from town to town in search of work. Miraculously, they reunite with Benjamin, who has run away from his school. The family decides to journey to a place called Gods Lake, where Saul’s ancestors lived generations ago.

At Gods Lake, Saul has a mystical vision. He sees his ancestors, laughing and playing at the water’s edge. Then, he sees them crushed under enormous rocks. Shortly after this vision, Benjamin begins coughing up blood, a symptom of a disease he contracted during his time in school. He dies one day while harvesting rice with the family. Saul’s parents take Benjamin’s body into the nearest town to seek a Christian burial for him, but they never return. Naomi decides that she and Saul will have to travel down the river so that they don’t freeze to death.

Naomi leads Saul through wilderness and fierce snowstorms. Eventually, the two of them make their ways to the outskirts of the town of Minaki. There, in the middle of a blizzard, Naomi freezes to death. Two white men take Saul away from his beloved grandmother’s body, and bring him to St. Jerome’s school for Indigenous children.

St. Jerome’s is a terrifying place. The teachers, priests, and nuns believe they have a mission to teach their Indigenous Canadian students about Christianity, the English language, and Western laws. They severely punish anyone who speaks their native language, and effectively torture little children for acting up in even the smallest ways. Some of Saul’s classmates are beaten to death, or kill themselves out of despair. At night, priests rape and abuse many of the children.

Saul has one protector at St. Jerome’s: a young, kind priest named Father Gaston Leboutilier . Father Leboutilier is protective of Saul, and encourages him to learn to play hockey . Although Saul is too young to join the school hockey team, Leboutilier allows him to clean the ice every morning, which gives Saul an opportunity to practice in private. On his own time, Saul teaches himself how to skate and shoot the hockey puck. Even though he’s much younger and smaller than the other hockey players, he becomes a brilliant athlete. Leboutilier, recognizing his talent, allows Saul to play in hockey scrimmages, and Saul does very well. In some games with opposing teams, however, Saul is ridiculed for being Indigenous Canadian.

One day, an Indigenous Canadian man named Fred Kelly arrives at St. Jerome’s and offers to adopt Saul. Kelly recognizes Saul’s talents, and offers to give him a home and a family, in return for which Saul will play for Kelly’s local team, the Moose. Saul accepts. He says an emotional goodbye to Father Leboutilier, who tells him that hockey will set him free.

Saul begins living with Fred Kelly, his wife Martha Kelly , and their son, Virgil Kelly , who is a couple years older than Saul. Virgil is the captain of the hockey team, and he encourages Saul to do well. Saul is much younger than the other players, but he wins their respect with his phenomenal talent. The hockey team competes in tournaments with other Indigenous Canadian teams, and wins almost all its games, thanks in part to Saul, who quickly emerges as their star player.

The team experiences a milestone when a talented team of white Canadian players challenges them to a game. Saul reluctantly agrees to play with his Moose teammates, even though he has strong reservations about playing against white Canadians because of the racism he has experienced before. In the game, the Moose get off to a rough start, but with Saul’s brilliant playing, they come back to win, 6-5. Afterwards, the Moose begin traveling more frequently, playing the best teams in Canada and often winning. After one particularly impressive victory against a white team, however, the Moose teammates are attacked and savagely beaten by white townspeople. Following this horrific incident, Saul begins to notice small instances of racism and prejudice more regularly in his daily life.

One day, a talent scout comes to watch the Moose practice. The scout tells Saul that he has the talent to play professionally, and offers him a chance to train in Toronto and eventually go professional. Saul is reluctant to leave his friends and adopted family, but with Virgil’s encouragement, he agrees.

In Toronto, Saul plays brilliantly for his rookie team, and the future seems bright. But as the season goes on, he notices that opposing teams, and even his own teammates, mock him for being Indigenous. Journalists call him a “savage” and a “crazy redskin,” even when they praise his performance. Saul becomes more aggressive during games, and eventually begins regularly fighting with members of the opposing team. Before long, Saul has been kicked off the team, and heads back to the Kelly family. Saul begins working for a living, and quickly leaves town to find a better job.

Saul spends the next couple years working in various low-paying outdoor jobs. He makes little money, and spends whatever he saves on alcohol. Sometimes, his white coworkers give him a hard time for being Indigenous, and he usually fights back. By 1978, Saul has become a full-blown alcoholic. He begins living with a kindly farmer named Ervin Sift , who seems to think of him as a surrogate son. With Ervin’s help, Saul tries to cut down on drinking. But eventually he relapses, begins drinking more and more heavily, and is so ashamed of himself for this that he leaves Ervin without any explanation.

Saul drives around the country, going on drinking binges and eventually trying to quit drinking altogether. However, he begins having seizures as a symptom of withdrawal and ends up in the hospital. After this, he checks into a rehabilitation facility called the New Dawn Center, where he works with a counselor named Moses to recover from his alcoholism. Moses urges Saul to write down his experiences—which Saul does, in the form of this book.

Saul leaves the New Dawn Center and drives out to St. Jerome’s, which is now in ruins. There, he has vivid flashbacks to his time as a student, and realizes the truth: that Father Leboutilier had raped and abused him as a child. For years, Saul has repressed his memories of the abuse.

Furious and confused, Saul journeys out to Gods Lake. There, he has a vision of his great-grandfather, Slanting Sky , who tells Saul that he must learn how to carry Gods Lake within himself.

Saul returns to the visit the Kelly family. He tells Martha and Fred what he has realized about his past at St. Jerome’s, and they tell him they understand: they went through similar experiences themselves. They encourage Saul to stay and rebuild his life with their support. Saul rejoins the local hockey team, and rekindles his friendship with Virgil, who coaches one of the local teams. Moving forward, Saul knows that he will continue to struggle with the pain of his past, but he’s grateful to have loyal friends and a loving adopted family.

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Indian Horse

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Character Analysis

Symbols & Motifs

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Discussion Questions

How do the three generations of Indian Horses (grandmother, parents, and Saul) feel about “Zhaunagush” (the white man)? What informs their opinion?

Why do you think Saul represses the memory of his sexual abuse for so long? What triggers his memory, and why does he remember it then, at the ruins of St. Jerome’s?

Why is Saul always so hesitant to play with white teams? What makes him push through that reluctance?

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What Richard Wagamese’s “Indian Horse” Taught Me

With Bell Let’s Talk day  and Acadia Mental Health Week recently passing, campus has been putting forth fantastic effort in addressing mental health stigma and promoting self-care. The progress is fantastic, especially when I look back on my first year at Acadia compared to now. However, there is still a crucial aspect to the conversation that has been pushed aside. The reality is that First Nations youth are dying by their own hands approximately 5 times more often than non-Indigenous youth. The statistics are even higher for Inuit peoples, which are indeed among the highest in the world. I knew of these statistics before, but it wasn’t until I read Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse that it became a visceral reality instead of just statistical fact. Reducing these experiences to numbers and headlines has allowed us to distance ourselves from the issues prevalent within First Nations communities because we don’t feel anything for numbers or headlines. Our response begins and ends with “oh no, that’s terrible”, and then we go on with our lives because we have the privilege to do so.  But fiction has proven to be powerful truth. It is easy to see the news and think that you’re knowledgeable about an issue, but it isn’t until you hear the raw stories from the affected people themselves when you truly begin to put the pieces together. Indian Horse- Richard Wagamese

This novel explores the life of Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway boy who is telling his own story so that he can reclaim it. The story is told in first person, forcing the reader to experience the atrocities through the protagonist’s eyes. The reader follows Saul’s journey from a young boy living in the bush with his family to adolescence in the residential school system, and onward to adulthood where Saul develops a severe drinking problem like his parents before him. Often faced with dead friends and family, neglect, abuse, and blatant racism, Saul finds himself repressing the harsh reality he faces and opts to instead immerse himself in the world of hockey. A world that he loves but does not love him back. As Saul’s opportunities in life increase, so does the racial hostility. Although he has survived St. Jerome’s residential school, the weight of his life there follows him everywhere he goes until he finds the strength to tell, and remember, his story so that he can heal. Wagamese’s novel serves two very important purposes. First, the story is a powerful reminder that reclaiming your story is a necessary component to healing. Second, Indian Horse answers the most important question we are left with when we see brutal statistics and headlines regarding First Nations addictions, mental health, and suicide epidemics. That question is “how?”. How are these statistics so high? How is this still happening? How does addiction relate to mental health? How can there be this much devastation among First Nation communities? Wagamese details the “how” by telling Saul’s story and, by extension, his own story. This kind of story can only come from a place of knowing, which means it is a story worth listening to. It connects the dots for those of us who have been privileged enough to never know the kind of struggle Wagamese writes about. After reading this novel, I am still asking “how?”, but now from a different context. How can I learn more? How can we teach each other? How can we help? I learned from Indian Horse is that it starts with listening.

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Struggles in Richard Wagameses’ Indian Horse

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Book Review , Indian Horse , Novel

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"Indian Horse" masterfully explores the themes of identity, trauma, and resilience in the context of the Canadian indigenous experience. Through Saul Indian Horse's journey, the novel emphasizes the importance of cultural ...

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Essay Samples on Indian Horse

Indian Horse is a novel by Canadian author Richard Wagamese that has gained popularity in recent years for its powerful portrayal of the experiences of Indigenous people in Canada. As such, it is often assigned as a topic for essays in literature or social studies classes. Some possible Indian Horse essay topics could include analyzing the symbolism of the horse in the novel, discussing the themes of identity and belonging, or examining the effects of residential schools on Indigenous communities.

In writing an Indian Horse essay, it is important to acknowledge the historical and cultural context of the novel, as well as the author’s personal background as a member of the Ojibwe Nation. This can be achieved through extensive research and referencing reputable sources. Additionally, it can be helpful to incorporate examples from the novel to support arguments and ideas.

When choosing among Indian Horse thesis ideas for an essay, consider focusing on a specific aspect of the novel that resonates with you. For example, you may be interested in exploring the relationships between the characters, or analyzing the narrative structure. Whatever the topic, make sure to provide clear and compelling evidence to support your arguments and draw connections between the novel and larger social and historical issues.

Finally, with careful research and thoughtful analysis provided in the essays of this section, you can create a compelling and insightful essay that sheds light on the complexities of Indigenous experiences in Canada.

Examining Relationships in Indian Horse and Only Drunks

Examining Relationships and Identity in Indian Horse and Only Drunks and Children tell the truth. Saul, Janice and Barb both emphasize the importance of Family and tradition, and show us examples throughout the play and novel. Indian horse and Only Drunks and Children Tell the...

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Dreaming A Horse: Power and Fullness of the Body Without Sexual Connotation 

The horse represents the physical body, this animal body which we inhabit, which the mind must not seek to dominate, but rather to understand, in order to be able to become one with it. The horse belongs to the earth. His body is in total...

"Indian Horse" Novel Analysis: the Role of Alcohol in Saul's Life

Alcohol is a drink which causes a person to lose his consciousness. Reading the novel Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese narrates how Saul resorts to alcohol in order to escape the reality he has been living in. Now the question arises what causes Saul to turn...

The Depiction of School Abuse in Indian Horse

Even hockey couldn’t save Saul from school. Saul is an aboriginal boy; both his parents leave him when his brother dies so he is left with his grandmother. He and his grandmother are on their way to a new village for the winter when she...

Analysis of "Indian Horse": How Trauma Can Affect One's Life

Richard Wagamese shocks all his readers when Saul Indian Horse, the main character, unveils a heartbreaking secret he has kept quiet for most of his life. Near the end of the book, Saul reveals that Father Leboutilier, a father like figure to him, has been...

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Standing Against Society: Indian Horse

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit” - E. E Cummings. This quote efficiently applies to the story, Indian Horse written by Richard Wagamese, which is veritably a quest, talks about the...

The Comparative Essay: Comparing Saul's Life in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and Stephen.S Campanelli's Movie

This comparative essay will examine the differences and similarities in Saul’s life as portrayed in Richard Wagamese’s book entitled, “Indian Horse”, the 2017 movie written by Stephen. S Campanelli, and present-day life. Indian Horse is a very realistic and heart-wrenching story about the horrors of...

Best topics on Indian Horse

1. Examining Relationships in Indian Horse and Only Drunks

2. Dreaming A Horse: Power and Fullness of the Body Without Sexual Connotation 

3. “Indian Horse” Novel Analysis: the Role of Alcohol in Saul’s Life

4. The Depiction of School Abuse in Indian Horse

5. Analysis of “Indian Horse”: How Trauma Can Affect One’s Life

6. Standing Against Society: Indian Horse

7. The Comparative Essay: Comparing Saul’s Life in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and Stephen.S Campanelli’s Movie

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Indian Horse

Self-discovery and cultural rediscovery: growth in indian horse tiimaoro idiong college.

Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse is an evocative depiction of personal and cultural identity growth amidst attempted individual and cultural genocide, abuse, and trauma. The story is set in the late 1950s and 1960s when residential schools were prominent and numerous. The book itself examines the trauma of a survivor of these residential schools and his journey to the recovery of self and individuality. The book is written as a sort of memoir that documents the experiences of the protagonist as a way of overcoming trauma. There are numerous moments in which Saul makes a choice which causes him to grow negatively or positively. However, three main arcs sweep through the novel and link multiple mini-arcs together to bring everything full circle. Saul grows through accepting his trauma, forgiving his oppressors, and accepting his tradition and culture through three key moments: forming a new identity separate from the submissive and homogenous identity St. Jerome ingrains in its students, aimlessly searching for a different identity, and restoring cultural beliefs and merging his hockey and Ojibway cultural identities.

A moment that causes Saul to go through pivotal growth is when he watches hockey being played for the first time....

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essay about indian horse

Home / Essay Samples / Entertainment / Movies / Indian Horse

Indian Horse Essay Examples

Representation of residential school trauma in "indian horse".

A good childhood experience reflects greatly upon how you act as you get older, school life for a child should be memorable and should be able to apply the teachings to their own lives, but unfortunately, that's not what Saul Indian Horse can relate to....

The Effects of Racism and Discrimination on Indigenous Peoples as Depicted in Indian Horse

Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” The widespread occurrence and intensity of racial discrimination negatively impacts Aboriginals and their relationship with the Anglo Saxon community. Through the course of Indian Horse,...

The Effect of Racism and Discrimination on Saul’s Life in Indian Horse

The novel Indian Horse takes a look back at the character Saul Indian Horse’s life after his last run with alcohol led him to be checked into a rehab facility. Saul’s journey begins with his childhood on the land, then is captured and taken to...

Indian Horse: Hockey in Richard Wagamese's Novel

In the novel Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, we are introduced to a boy named Saul Indian Horse who is gifted with incredible hockey playing skills. Saul has to deal with loss and pain, yet, he also experiences a lot of family despite losing his...

The Role of Family in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

An individual who experiences trauma with family can prevent the start of a true relationship. When someone faces traumatic experiences with family, they will often push away and live a life of being alone. In the story Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese, the main character,...

Indian Horse and the Struggles of Indigenous Children in Canada

This comparative essay will examine the differences and similarities in Saul’s life as portrayed in Richard Wagamese’s book entitled, “Indian Horse”, the 2017 movie written by Stephen.S Campanelli, and present-day life. Indian Horse is a very realistic and heart-wrenching story about the horrors of residential...

Saul’s Life in Two Realities in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse was written by Richard Wagamese, an Ojibwe from Minaki from northwestern Ontario. The book is about the story of a young boy named Saul Indian Horse and his journey through his life from childhood to adulthood in northern Ontario while residential schools were...

Review of the Movie Indian Horse

I always like the film by Stephen S. Campanelli, and the film Indian Horse is no exception. The film was set in 19th century, when Canada government compelled native Indian children to have the white’s transformation in residential school. And a kid called Saul Indian...

Critical Analysis of the Film Adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s Novel Indian Horse

Indian Horse is a fictional novel written by Canadian Ojibwe author Richard Wagamese. Set in Northern Ontario in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it follows protagonist Saul Indian Horse as he uses his extraordinary talent for ice hockey to try and escape his traumatic...

The Impact of Minor Characters in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Minor characters significantly impact and create a positive influence on the protagonist. In the novel Indian Horse, written by the Canadian writer Richard Wagamese, minor characters turn out to be a positive influence on Saul Indian Horse. These characters encourage Saul to endure in different...

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