Friday, 11 May 2012

Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse, a true Hockey Night in Canada

For those who are missing hockey here is a magnificent conversation with Richard Wagamese about his new book Indian Horse. Indian Horse is the story of Saul Indian Horse (Ojibway) who is raised in northern Ontario in a traditional family in the 1960s. Saul is eventually sent to St-Jerome Indian Residential School where he must suffer terrible horrors against his physical and spiritual self. Saul eventually finds some salvation through a new sport the 11 year old had never encountered before. Hockey was introduced by a new young priest at the Residential school, Father Gaston Leboutilier, as a means to train and interest the older boys. The story almost becomes one of the quintessential hockey success story of unbridled natural talent carved out of the Canadian northern rock. While Saul is initially not allowed to play the new sport he gains the admiration and confidence of Father Leboutilier. Saul and Leboutlier become very close as he is able to shield young Saul from many of the abuses of the IRS.
Saul due to his hockey talent then begins a new journey discovering the Canada of the 1960s and early 1970s, one based on ideals of equality and hard work, but not for any dirty Indian. He will eventually retrace his steps and discover the truth about his past.

I really loved this book and was able to read it in 4 hours. While the book is about Saul it is also about that Canadian spirit which is represented by hockey. Hockey is presented as this pure sport above the daily grid found within much of general life of both the rural and urban setting. We see through Wagamese’s magnificent writing that this is not the case and terrible injustice can be perpetrated in the name of the purity of a nation and a sport.

If you are a hockey fan and would like to read something different from the usual fare this book is for you. The true title of this book should have been Indain Horse: The True Hockey Night in Canada. 

Hocket Night in Canada Theme song

To Learn More (Podcast):


Ouellette, Robert-Falcon. (Director) (2012, May 11). At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research. Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse, a true Hockey Night in Canada[Audio podcast]. Retrieved from  
Ouellette, Robert-Falcon, dir. "Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse, a true Hockey Night in Canada." At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research.. N.p., 11 2012. web. 11 May 2012. < ›


  1. Robert Ouellette discusses the novel Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese. Indian Horse tells the story of a young Ojibway boy named Saul Indian Horse, who grows up in the residential school system. Saul experiences the discontinuity many Aboriginal youth experienced upon entering the residential school system; losing their language and traditional cultural values, while being mistreated and malnourished. The only enjoyment Saul experiences is through his incredible gifts as a hockey player.

    Hockey is indeed a pivotal part of many Canadian’s lives, and so too for Aboriginal peoples. Hit the Ice is a television program on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in which young Aboriginal hockey players across Canada are recruited for an elite training camp in order to promote their future success in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. The show is in its first season and expects to have many dedicated viewers. Hit the Ice identifies the abundance of skilled Aboriginal hockey players and the need for increased support of these talented individuals. The National Hockey League may soon welcome more Aboriginal players into its roster in the upcoming years. Currently there are only 10 NHL players who have acknowledge some form of Aboriginal heritage (whether full-blooded Indian Status, Metis or other Aboriginal cultural heritage), one of which being Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, recipient of a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi. While 10 is indeed an accomplishment, there are currently 850 NHL players in the 2013/2014 season, Aboriginal skaters making up a mere 0.01% of all players.

    While there are programs in existence in Manitoba, such as the Manitoba Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Council (MASRC), a non-profit organization promoting healthy and active lifestyles for Aboriginal peoples in Manitoba, there is a serious need for more support mechanisms in place to encourage young Aboriginal players to pursue sports programs. Sports, especially hockey, have enormous expenses which many families cannot afford. Uniforms, team registration, protective equipment, maintenance of equipment, etc. Programs like Hit the Ice, novels like Indian Horse, and resources such as MASRC, all contribute to the growing number of Aboriginal hockey players in Canada and the NHL.