To others, the suffering appears to stop, but to them, it only gets worse. Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse tells a story about a reconstruction of soul and identity after all had been lost. Saul Indian Horse, an eight-year-old Ojibway boy is torn from his family and committed to one of Canada’s infamous residential schools. Cut off from language and tradition, Saul experiences abuse of all types towards himself and those around him. All he had ever loved taken from him, who he was being ripped apart and put back together in a way some stranger saw fit. Indian Horse explores the ability of the human soul to find peace after trauma through facing past demons, finding comfort in friendships, and discovering a passion.
Perhaps the greatest way Saul recovered was through facing his demons from the past. Remaining quiet and reserved throughout most of the movie, Saul’s struggle to face his past can be described by the words of his instructor at a rehabilitation center, “Your silence is killing you.” Saul finally confronts his demons by accepting what happened, remembering his roots, and finding comfort in the past. Despite the crushing emotional pain, Saul journeyed to the residential school where he and so many where physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Saul recognizes that this was part of his past, an important first step to recuperation and an exemplification of the power of the human spirit to heal. Saul then ventures to his ancestral homeland, where he rediscovers his roots and the family he had been so happy with. He uncovers his identity, where came from, and the happiness associated with that. In doing so, he cries, signifying his acceptance ; his innate power as a human being to recover. Facing his fears is arguably the most important step Saul made towards healing, and it gave him the ability to find peace, even after such pain.
Facing your fears is a crucial first step, but the process of recovery does not come easy. One of the most powerful areas one can take comfort in is friendship. After being transferred out of the school, Saul joins his adopted family and hockey team, here Saul is able to find true solace from the confines of his past, doing the thing he loves most, surrounded by the people he loves most. This truly helps Saul escape from his trauma and find peace for himself. After being taken from his brothers to play in the Toronto Monarchs, he quickly falls back into suffering and frustration. He quits hockey and succumbs to alcoholism, causing irreparable damage to himself. Saul then returns to his family and friends, and with the comfort of being surrounded by those he loves, he is able to find true healing.
Lastly, Saul’s main method of escape and the focus of the story, the biggest way Saul was able to find peace through discovering a passion. Saul’s greatest escape from the horrors of the residential school came in the unlikely form of a typical Canadian pastime, hockey. “I would not feel lonely or afraid, deserted or abandoned, but connected to something far bigger than myself. Then I’d climb back into bed and sleep until the dawn woke me and I could walk back out to the rink again”. Saul used hockey as a method of escape, to set his stick down on the ice and forget all that was distressing him. If it were not for hockey, Saul’s story would not have been the one it is today. Saul is able to use his talent to find his way out of the residential school and to a new loving and caring family, whom he uses in conjunction with his love for hockey to find true peace and harmony.
Whether it be confronting the terrors directly, facing it together, or finding a passion to take comfort in, the human soul finds ways to mend itself even after the most horrid of events.