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on January 16, 2013
As a child of northern Canada, the residential school legacy has been a constant theme in my formative and adult years. It is truly one of the blackest hours in Canadian history; one so shameful, we cannot bear to teach it in our public schools. The complete social upheaval of first nations communities has led to the destruction and near-destruction of so many lives and homes in the north, we despair of it ever being healed.

But healing is coming; in the telling of the stories, in the solidarity of shared experience and in the reclamation of language, culture and spirit. "Indian Horse" is a powerful story; it's voice echoed in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings being held across the country, as everyone who has suffered at the hands of residential schools has the opportunity to tell their own story.

The language of Richard Wagamese is spare and concise, removing any sense of sentimentality; the bits and pieces of the story either too beautiful or horrid to benefit from any embellishment. It is rich and evocative without an extra syllable to be found.

There are several themes running through the book - the wonderful spiritual connection to Saul's ancestors, the land and his own healing, the various communities that surround him at different times, the redemption and salvation found at the hockey rink and the gut-wrenching years at the school; the stories of the small, lost souls of St. Jerome's so powerful, I found myself waking in the night, thinking of them: Arden Little Light, Shane Big Canoe, Sheila Jack. This is where Wagamese has served us so well - by simply acknowledging them, seeing them and helping us to see them too. The small slivers of their stories, told in only a few sentences, gives life to their suffering and tells us all we need to know.

The writing is nearly matter-of-fact; this is what happened with never a whiff of self pity. It is wise, with moments of pure joy, despair, hope and dark evil; the healing power of the land countered by absolute cruelty and ignorance. You will hear the echo of this story long after you finish reading it.
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on May 29, 2013
It was an honour to read “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. As a reader who wants to encourage others to go out and get this important piece of work, I am breaking the rule about reviewers getting personal with the material. As I worked my way through the staggering story of Saul Indian Horse , there was an immediate flooding of memories...his and mine. I was a 6 year old Dutch immigrant who attended a Catholic school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. At that time, there were Aboriginal children in my class who were treated horribly by the teachers. They were always getting strapped for speaking their native language or having messy desks or whatever. It seemed to me even at such a young age, that these children were being picked on. By the time I was in grade 3, my teacher even went so far as to tell my dad, that I really shouldn’t be hanging out with Aboriginal kids. I can remember overhearing my dad and mom discussing it late at night while I was in bed. My dad was furious that this teacher had the nerve to say such a thing and he had told her so. Another memory of mine was that these kids were all in foster care with white families in our area. I didn’t get it! What was wrong with their own families? In later years, when I was well into my 40s, I ran across a small paragraph in a Canadian school history book that bluntly mentioned the governmental policy. I was shocked and started looking up information about this unbelievably abhorrent policy. Besides the residential schools , there was a policy called the “Sixties Scoop” where aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and placed by child welfare agencies. Who knew that this could happen in a so-called democratic society? Canadians , in general , are in the dark about this policy. They are starting to learn of the horrors of the residential schools but it is through the poignant writing of Mr. Wagamese that our eyes will be opened to the reality of the cultural devastation that has occurred to literally generations of Aboriginal families. And what about the horrors perpetrated in the name of religion. The hypocrisy of it all is enough to make one scream. How can people treat others horribly and use religion as a right to do so? My heart ached and I cried when I read the story of “Indian Horse” but the beauty of resilience and survivor’s strength is amazing. Hockey was Saul’s love and it created a place for him to escape to, not only physically but mentally as well. The description of the game is breathtaking. I think that this book should be required reading for senior elementary as well as highschool students. Every Canadian needs to be informed about what happened. History is important. We cannot change it unfortunately, but we certainly can help change the future. Says Saul..”I just want to work on the idea of what’s possible.”

Fred: “They scooped out our insides, Saul. We’re not responsible for that. We’re not responsible for what happened to us. None of us are. But our healing ..that’s up to us. That’s what saved me. Knowing it was my game.”
If you want to read a story that tells a painful truth through the character of Indian Horse, then read this book. If you want to read a story that describes a powerful hopefulness, then read this book. It is a book that all Canadians should read.
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on February 8, 2013
I often find that fitting fiction into my reading time is difficult, but Saul Indian Horse is someone I know or rather a composite of many someones that I know...friends, clients, ancestors... It was originally purchased as a Christmas gift for my 14 year old grandson to help him to understand one of the ancestor paths he carries in his DNA, but I thought I'd read it before I gave it to him. Wow! I couldn't put the book down! Richard Wagamese has a well earned reputation as a story weaver, but this latest is a gem. The story is skillfully woven and narrated by someone who is himself an excellent story teller who knows the timing, language and emotional weight of every single word. If you want to delve into excellent fiction that will be as spell binding to your elders as your grandkids, here's the one to start with! I only say this because I know that Richard will likely outdo himself with his next story.
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on May 11, 2012
Here is an interview at the blog attheedgeofcanada.blogspot.ca with Richard where he talks about his novel Indian Horse. I would love for this book to gain greater appeal among hockey players and lovers, because it would be a great introduction to residential schools and its terrible period for First Nations, while tying into the story which is linked to Canadian identity of Hockey and the wild.

robert ouellette
Indian Horse
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on February 10, 2012
There are things in history that are so shameful often people would rather not talk about them. Richard Wagamese doesn't just talk about them, he helps us experience them. He takes us inside Saul Iron Horse's world, sharing his journey of heartache, heartbreak, disappointments and triumphs. I felt every word and cried a good deal. I have to believe in karma because no money or apology can ever give back the world that existed before residential schooling. I read this book into the wee hours unable to put it down until I had completed Saul's journey with him.
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on April 27, 2016
Some beautiful descriptive passages especially dealing with the hockey plays. The transitions from one phase of life to another were forced and sometimes awkward. The angst experienced by the main character was real and triggered empathy on the part of the reader for the main character and others who experienced the horrors of the residential schools.
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on December 11, 2012
I read a lot of books every year, at least 3-5 a week and Indian Horse is, hands down, the best book I've read in 2012.
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on July 26, 2016
Being Canadian and constantly hearing about the residential schools and how the natives of Canada were so mistreated, this book gave me an insight I never had before. Very well written in the Canadian Spirit. Well Done Mr. Wagamese, I could hardly put it down.
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on January 14, 2013
I have read most of what Wagamese has written. Of his fiction this is my favorite. A sensitive tale that takes you inside the residential school horror. An uplifting must read!
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on January 23, 2013
The author brought me into his world because of his own sensitivity, insights and excellent writing.I taught on a northern Indian Reserve so I could relate to the areas he was writing about, not to mention the character of the people. Although, women didn't play hockey when I was growing up, I still 'felt' the love that he had for the sport. I felt that way about baseball. I could understand the feeling of flow and freedom and escape from pain that playing hockey gave his spirit. He goes deep into the human spirit regarding betrayal of trust and forgiveness and I laud his bravery. It's not easy to go there...much more than just being clever and mesmerizing you with fancy phrases and words.I'm hoping that anyone who reads this will enjoy the story but more importantly gain some insights into the residential schools and the effects they had on the children and parents for many generations.
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