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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 a residential school where he learns the great game of hockey through this talent for the game, Saul manages to escape from the residential school, taken in by a family he continues his hockey career until he is fed up with anger and sorrows from racism and discrimination which leads him to quit hockey and begin to drink his pain away. A lot of what Saul had experienced through his journey many Canadian Indigenous people shared the same fate. Through racism and discrimination, one’s life can be drastically altered as it is easily a cause for someone’s inner pain, by looking at the novel Indian Horse and the character Saul it is clear through his life and his hockey career racism and discrimination led him into a rehab facility after the extensive use of alcohol to control his pain the same pain many Indigenous people in Canada have felt.
Racism and discrimination can already be seen affecting Saul’s life when he is a young boy. Saul and his brother would quickly be forced into the bushes by their grandmother if a stranger ever came near sometimes having to stay in the bush for a day or so, their grandmother Naomi had seen other Indians be taken away to “the school” even Saul’s own mother, father, sister and eventually brother had been taken to “the school”. “The school” refers to Residential Schools, these schools “were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture…attempt to both educate and convert Indigenous youth and to integrate them into Canadian society, residential schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples.” All ready at such a young age Saul is being affected by discrimination and racism, having to live in fear due to the chance of being taken at any moment to a residential school. This fear disrupts the life of Saul like many other indigenous people in Canada. As these schools caused long term problems with Indigenous people this can be seen through Saul’s mother. Saul says, “It was the school that turned my mother so far inward she sometimes ceased to exist in the outside world.” Saul has lost his family physically and or mentally to the residential schools due to the racism and discrimination to his people the Northern Ojibway, same way the Indigenous people of Canada had fared.
Saul was finally captured and taken to a residential school, after attempting to run and hide with his grandmother for a time until she froze to death. These schools were a symbol of racism and discrimination towards Saul and his people. It is evident that the beginning of Saul’s resentment towards the residential school and the meaning behind them can be a factor which lead Saul to begin to drink and land himself in rehab once Saul got older. In the novel Saul says, “St. Jerome’s took all the lights from my world.” Showing the darkness that residential school caused in Saul’s life. The pain in which would build up over time through other experiences leading Saul to become an alcoholic.
Saul also experiences racism when he finally receives the chance to play hockey form Father Leboutilier who was a teacher and priest at St. Jerome’s Residential school. Saul now able to play with the bigger boys after being the care taker of their rink and practicing his hockey abilities on his own. Saul and his team, in which were from the school, were playing a game against the local town team at the White River Arena. At the game when Saul staked out of the dressing room at the tail end of the team the people in the stands pointed at him and laughed saying “The Indian school brought their mascot!”. Now this was only the beginning in which Saul would see racism and or discrimination in hockey. Hockey, the ice, the game was an escape for Saul to be himself and forget about the negative and harsh reality of his life. For in the moment he had no pain and could live freely but in this moment that was all taken away from him and the rink was seen as rude and cruel to Saul, just like everything he was attempting to distant himself from. After Saul lit up the hometown team, he was asked to play with them, shortly after Saul had joined the team he had gone to the arena for their next game when he finds out from Father Leboutilier he had been kicked off the team. Saul was told the parents wanted their kids to play more since Saul was normally on the ice longer than them. Saul asked Father Leboutilier if the reason he was kicked off the team was for being Indian, Father Leboutilier responded yes and told Saul that they think it is their game. Saul’s great hockey ability had led the parents to refuse to play with or against Saul. When it is said that they think it is their game they are pointing to the fact that they believe it is a White-Canadian game and not to be played with the Indian boy Saul, this proves to be true when Saul finds out they do not want to play with him because he is Indian. The continued racism and discrimination toward Saul took away his ability to grow as a hockey player having to take a setback and go back to play with the boys from St. Jerome’s Residential school, but also adds more fuel to his emptiness he feels which can correlate to a reason for becoming a drunk when he grows up.
Saul after bouncing around with the town team and the St. Jerome’s Residential school team he finally finds a home with Fred Kelly and his team The Moose “The Kelly’s would be your legal guardians, Saul. That means you could leave here and go to the Mantiouwadge, attend a regular school. You’d have a home, Saul. A real home.” Father Leboutilier tells Saul and Fred Kelly tells Saul he can play all the hockey he wanted. In this moment it seems that Saul finally had something good come for him after having very dark past. Saul had found a new home, family and a hockey team that would respect and appreciate him for who he is. But this was not the end of racism and discrimination Saul would see in his story.
Saul begins his playing career with his new team the Moose. With the Moose a team of “White Guys” challenge to play the Moose, this challenge has Saul’s teammates pretty amped to play, but Saul is very unenthusiastic to play the team until he finally gives in and agrees to play against them. Saul’s initially attitude towards this challenge and the unwillingness to play against this team can stem from the racism and discrimination he had faced when he was younger not only playing against white players in the past but also when he played on the same team as the “white guys”. Saul’s teammates attitude towards the matchup finally got Saul to change his decision and agree to play the game. When the Moose finally play the game against the white guys in town in their arena. The announcer and refs ask the Moose for their lineup card which they had to quickly make since it is something they have never had to do before; after handing over the card, the man said, “You got some pretty weird names here” and “Indian Horse. Black Wolf. Ear. You’re kidding right?”. Saul and his teammates are again being subjected to racism and discrimination. Their names are seen as a joke, as the man ask Saul and his teammates if they were kidding when they gave their lineup card to the man, showing the lack of and no respect towards Saul and his teammates.
Saul now a teenager continued to play hockey with the Moose until he got a shot to play with the Toronto Maple Leaf’s farm team the Toronto Marlboros. Saul’s shot would not last that long as shortly after he made the team he decided it was time for him to quit. As Saul yet again would experience vast amounts of racism and discrimination, but before he could quit Saul becomes the player he never wanted to be. Saul played hockey for the love of the game and when other players teased him, the arena teased he would not retaliate. This would all change when Saul began playing with the Toronto Marlboros. Saul now tempting to showcasing his talent he puts on an electric play which leads to a goal for one of his teammates, after the goal while staking to the bench Saul is slashed behind the knees by one of the other teams’ players; Saul now with almost the whole arena laughing at him decides enough is enough and punched the player who slashed him, but also fought three of the opposing players until he was pulled off and dragged off the ice. For Saul this was a moment to fight back for all of the pain he had suffered through his life. Saul could not take the racism and discrimination anymore, in this moment he could no longer control his anger, instead Saul had felt it was time for him to retaliate for the wrongs that have been done to him. Saul now played with that hate whenever an opposing player would direct a remark towards him or any questionable hit he would fight, he would not pass but instead try to score on his own whenever he got the chance which lead Saul to be referred to as the “Rampaging Redskin”. Saul was done with being the nice guy, any chance he would get he would punish the opposing players using his built-up hate and anger to fuel him. All Saul had wanted was to be respected by opposing players and cowards but after years of racial abuse and discrimination he had done what he thought was right and that was to fight back for himself. Saul would shortly after start to see his playing time decrease because of the new adopted style of play he had, Saul decided it was time for him to leave and go back to the Moose, and Fred Kelly.
When Saul got back from the Toronto Marlboros he was seventeen years old. Fred Kelly had hooked him up with a job, and Saul was able to play with the Moose again. With the Moose and his job Saul used his physicality whenever he had felt wronged like he had with the Toronto Marlboros. At this job Saul was again called names like “Chief” and “Tonto”, the other workers would make Saul do the dirty work like clean the outhouses, it came to the point where Saul would be insulted by name calling, swearing, and physical abuse; and once again Saul used his aggression which leads him into a physical altercation with a co-worker to stop the abuse he was receiving. Saul with the Moose was different his mistreatment he had faced through his life made him hard whenever he felt he was wronged on the ice he would react with aggression; Saul was different, and it came to the point where his teammates would not talk to him Saul said “I knew that I was beyond them, the tournament teams and the game, forever.” This was the breaking point in Saul’s life and hockey career, and the turning point in which finally pushed him over the edge to become an alcoholic.
From a boy hiding in the bush, to be taken to a residential school stripped from his family, to finding a love for the game of hockey and that also had been taken from him. Saul was filled with fuel and fire that burned inside. The amount of racism and discrimination he had faced through his journey corelates to the reason why Saul had become a drunk and had to go to rehab. The pain he had felt, there was no other way for him to wash it away but through the use of abusing alcohol. From the Ontario Human Rights Commission, aboriginal Canadians racial discrimination can lead to “damaged self-esteem, higher risk of addiction and violence”, which is the same seen in Saul that his years of racial discrimination had led to becoming addicted to alcohol. Through the racism and discrimination that Saul had faced in his life and hockey career are causing factors which leads to Saul to becoming an alcoholic and having to go to rehab.
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