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Cana 1f91: Indian Horse Analysis

In: Other Topics

Submitted By Dt14fl
Words 1104
Pages 5
Deborah Termini



Dr. Brian De Ruiter

Heidi Madden

January 28, 2016

Indian Horse and Hockey

Saul Indian Horse is a Ojibway child who grew up in a land which offered little contact with anyone belonging to a different kind of society until he was forced to attend a residential school in which children were being stripped away of their culture with the scope of assimilating them into a more “civilized” community. Saul’s childhood in the school, greatly pervaded by psychological abuse and emotional oppression, was positively upset once one of the priests, Father Leboutillier, introduced him to the world of hockey, which soon become his sole means of inclusion and identification, mental well-being and acknowledged self-worth in his life. It is though universally acknowledged how, for every medal, there are always two inevitably opposite sides. Although hockey itself became his medium of escapism from psychological oppression, it also harvested feelings of exclusion and peer pressure. The attempt to accomplish his idea of cultural acceptance and mutual respect while trying to find his sense of worthiness and mental freedom in the rink was challenged by a discriminatory Canadian society possessing the brainless idea of hockey being “their game” (Wagamese 94). Abandoned by his parents, Saul’s sense of loneliness was reinforced at St. Jerome’s residential school and his beliefs, as well as his innocence, became compromised by the staff’s attempt to brainwash him through assimilation of western culture (81). Despite the progressive development of his sense of unworthiness, Saul was extremely connected to his natural environment thanks to his grandmother’s teachings, and was flabbergasted to find out of the existence of a sport played on ice in outside rinks, which reminded him of the freedom he could not obtain. We can readily see in the book how Saul developed a natural talent for hockey and outstanding abilities in learning its rules and predict player’s game patterns, as he stated that “Shabogeesick’s gift had been passed on to him. There was no other explanation for how he was able to see this foreign game so completely right away”(58). Father Leboutillier was the first person to recognize Saul’s talent, and by comparing hockey to the universe, he later explained how “what you can’t see under all the action, the speed, the mayhem, was the great spirit of this game” and that was indeed what made Saul so extraordinary: hockey’s spirit already within him (84). Hockey became the means of coping with the oppression inflicted by the school, and the only way of escaping an obnoxious reality while trying to find his own identity. Sometimes, he would “feel crippled by the ache of [his family’s] loss, but he knew that loneliness would be “dispelled by the sheen of the rink in the sunlight, the feel of cold air on his face, the sound of a wooden stick shuffling frozen rubber”(72). Saul makes many references on the wind while playing hockey, which makes the reader perceive and understand his own craving for freedom and his hatred towards a closed rink, as it would take away some of the liberty he struggled to acquire.
Saul’s statement “I ceased to be Zhaunagush…I became Saul Indian horse, Ojibway kid and hockey player. I became a brother”(86) is a clear confession of found identity which accompanies him throughout the book. Saul not only desires to find himself, but also tries to preserve his culture and stick to his true roots by calling himself an “Ojibway”. His remarkable hockey abilities allowed him to receive better opportunities which consequently led him into achieving a better lifestyle. We can say, at this point, that hockey involuntarily improved Saul’s independence and connection with the outside society as well as with members of his own culture, but despite the obvious benefit of freedom, his mental well being was continuously hindered by other hockey players since the beginning of his journey.
It is not until after he is refused to play in town that Saul starts understanding the concept of “outsider” in a society. The phrase “they think it’s their game” stresses the concept of western superiority over minorities. Racial discrimination caused Saul to be excluded from certain societal circles who considered First Nations people to be unworthy of playing against good teams, no matter the quality of the game. If on one side hockey has been able to bring him closer to members of his own community as he joined the Moose team (110), on the other side, as he started playing prevalently against and with white Canadian players such as the Marlboro team, he could perceive the unjustified prejudices that affected his psychological happiness. Saul was being excluded by his own team, physically and mentally traumatized by his opponents (140), and being called names such as “Rampaging Redskin”(165), “Squirt”(140) and “Wagon Burner”(173) which at first did not affect him until that unbearable repression started to change his views and attitude towards the game. At first he would not fight back because he was brought up to believe in respect for people, and violence would signify the inevitable loss of his vision of the game. letting go of his dream of it, the freedom, the release it gave him, the joy it gave him was not worth it (143). Subsequently, tired of being depicted as the psychologically weak one, his beliefs changed, he became bitter, his heart was filled with grief and vengeance and he got selfish towards his own team in order to please the crowd (165). Feeling like he lost everything, not able to escape the hate he contained for so long, Saul ultimately turned to alcohol hoping to drown all the racist comments anyone made about him. Saul Indian Horse made of hockey his whole life, he let it define him and it made him feel an inclusive part of something extraordinary powerful. He experienced joy, pain, satisfaction and disappointment through it, but ultimately, he let social pressure overcome his spirit and change who he was meant to become. Hockey allowed him to physically and mentally mature as a person, but it was the sport itself, at the end, that led to his destruction. His journey as a player is a clear representation of the racism that is still unconditionally present in our community and that has to be overcome in order obtain social equity in sports and other recreational activities.

Works cited:
Indian Horse: A Novel. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 2012. Print.

I acknowledge that I have read and understood Brock University’s academic misconduct policies and have abided by these policies.…...

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