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Losses of Saul in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

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Almost everyone goes through loss in their lives. It feels as if there’re pieces missing in life. Eventually, accepting for what happened and moving on with love rather than sadness is what’s best. In the novel, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, the main character, Saul, is removed from his family and put into St. Jerome’s residential school. The death of his brother, Ben, and grandmother, Naomi, affect him. Until, he finds hockey, the thing he really connects to in his life. While he’s on the ice, nothing else seems to matter. Fred Kelly came and brought Saul to his home in Manitouwadge. Saul then played for Moose, the town team. All the boys on the team were First Nations just like Saul, making him the youngest. He feels he can no longer escape the hate so he turns to a bottle hoping to drown out and dim down all the hateful things anyone has ever said to him. Throughout the novel, Saul continues to be resilient through loss of family, culture and innocence, ultimately making space for healing.

Firstly, loss of family physically changes Saul throughout the novel, he becomes resilient when he is introduced to hockey. After Saul experiences the loss of his brother and the disappearance of his parents, Saul And Naomi canoe down the river, where it’s warmer, to stay with Naomi’s nephew, Minoose. After four days of travelling to Naomi’s nephew, they hit some rough water, and they’re forced to swim away from the boat where it is icy and has a bad weather. Sadly, Naomi passes, risking her own life to take care of Saul. The men who take Saul only seem to care about taking Saul away from his family: “We would have found Minoose and sheltered there and my grandmother would have found a way to keep me with her. Instead, she was gone. Frozen to death. Saving me, and I was cast adrift on a strange new river”. After this, Saul loses trust in those around him. He grows up without having a proper parental figure, and this affected Saul while he grew up with constant fear and anger in his childhood. He has a hard time talking about his past and family with others, but he stays resilient. Saul is put into St. Jerome’s, which is where he begins reading about hockey. While being in the school he experiences rape, abuse, dehumanization, and more horrific things. Saul remembers talking to Naomi about the mystery of the universe and he relates it to how he feels towards hockey: “When I released myself to the mystery of the ice, I became a different creature. I could slow down time, choose the tempo I needed whenever I launched myself into learning a new skill”. After Saul becomes more interested in hockey, he finds happiness. He doesn’t think about his losses and he focuses on moving forward with the sport. The feeling of gliding on the ice, playing hockey, is a feeling of freedom for him. After the losses of his family, hockey creates healing for Saul after being able to endure his suffering and find a new identity while playing hockey.

Secondly, loss of culture was ripped out of Saul while being in St. Jerome’s. Eventually, Saul shows not to give up. After leaving the residential school, he gets put into a home with Fred Kelly and joins the teams town, Moose. After working so hard on the team and others being racist towards him, Saul leaves the town of Manitouwadge at the age of eighteen. Fred Kelly warns Saul that it’ll be hard for him to find work elsewhere, and suggests that he should stick around, where he’s surrounded by his friends: “I’d move on to a new crowd in a new tavern, a new place where the Indian in me was forgotten in the face of the ribald, hilarious fictions I spun”. When he’s drunk, he thinks he becomes funnier and making it easier for him to try and forget about the pain he’s been through. So whenever he runs out of stories, he moves on to a new town. Saul becomes homeless, which causes his depression to get worse and make him feel alone. He harms himself when he chooses to run away from his problems, looking at alcohol. This resulted him to pretend to be someone who he is not. Eventually, he goes back to town to visit Fred Kelley and the Moose: “So I think what I want to do is coach. Kids. Native kids. I want to bring them the joy I found; the speed, the grace, the strength and the beauty of the game. I want to give that back”. Saul decides not too give up and too give back love he has for hockey. He puts himself around those he loves, and decides to overcome of fear being able to trust again. Saul also talks about his past which further helps his trust with others like Fred Kelley and Moose. After the loss of his culture, he stays resilient through his workplace.

Lastly, Saul loses his innocence. After everything he experienced, he’s not the same person but Saul stays resilient of himself. When Saul is at St. Jerome’s, he worked until his spirits were broken. The people of St. Jerome’s didn’t embody the true spirit of the religion they were supposed to teach: “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 then human”. Saul was sexually abused by Father Leboutilier, the person who Saul that had love for him. He loses innocence and a connection with someone whom he looked up too. This too affected his trust and made him feel different around others. He stays too himself a lot, with nobody close with him to even knew he had a brother. Saul decides to talk about his past with Fred Kelley, and visiting the places that haunted him through is life, like St. Jermoe’s: “The only thing I had known from certain was that I had to backtrack, to revisit vital places from my early life, if I was ever going to understand how to live in the present”. Where before, Saul was quiet, not wanting to talk about his problems and holding them inside. But then, he chooses to talk them out and not let them get the best of him. Losing his innocence through abuse and what he had been through with St. Jerome’s was hard, but he created space for healing and moving on.

Throughout losses of family, culture and innocence, Saul was able to find resilience. He was able to open up to his past trauma, recognizing his negative impacts, it brought Saul to a positive outlet. His experiences through St. Jerome’s, losing his family, being through abuse and harming himself made him become stronger, not giving up on himself.

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