Richard Wagamese appears on the blog today with the re-release of his novel of Aboriginals and their struggles in Canada. Set in Manitoba and Ontario, please read on for my review of
Canada has much to answer for in its treatment of the First Nations people, and Wagamese in this award-winning novel tells the story of one young man who, despite all the odds, found survival in the telling of his story. At eight years old, Saul Indian Horse was taken from his grandmother’s house and placed in a residential school. These were common in Canada – some government run, others by the church: stories of abuse, neglect, discrimination and erasure of traditions, language and ‘indian-ness’ taken from these children, often leaving the shell of what they may have been, behind. Ojibway by birth, Saul’s life was one of abuse, deprivation, rootlessness and a strange disassociation from the traditions and families that would have strengthened and built his sense of self, allowing him some connection to his people. Instead, removed from tradition and family, punished harshly, forced into a quasi-assimilation that simply means one doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, his saving grace was his athletic ability on the ice. Hockey – the nation’s great sport provided Saul a modicum of acceptance, still tinged by the racism that was both rampant and governmentally sanctioned with this program of assimilation that seems to have been left without regulation, oversight or even a passing concern for the abuses perpetrated.
Now looking back on his life, Saul is trying to reconcile what he lost with just who he is, and in the larger aspect of humanity itself, what his people have lost – how they became “the Indian Problem” rather than a culture to be celebrated for its deep roots, richness of acceptance and ancestry, even the gentle ways with the earth. Now in treatment for alcoholism – he, like many others, filled the hole in their lives, dealt with the anger from their abuse, and even accepted the pervasive attitude of worthlessness from years of government interference in lives, homes, lands and worship. The writing is smooth and quite easy to follow along: allowing the moments, the horrors and the sadness to shine through in ways that can’t help but to fuel sympathy for little Saul, and understand why the grown man seems so lost, even as he clings to the pieces of his life before he was taken.
Soon to be a film: this story gives insight into what has to be one of Canada’s great failures: the treatment of its First Nations people: from reservations in isolated areas, to economic paucity, through and including the destruction and dismissal of traditions and family stories that were once passed through generations, now with great holes in their stories and in the souls of the people.
Title: Indian Horse
Author: Richard Wagamese
Genre: Aboriginal - First Nations, Literary Fiction, Setting: Canada
Published by: Douglas & McIntyre
Published on: 3 April, 2018 (Re-Release)
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 6 Hours: 50 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦Audible
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. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.