Role of Family in Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Family is the support, help, love and reassurance, it is what binds people to some strength of blood and brotherhood, it is a small home in the shadow of this lonely world, humans’ sake for family and offer the most precious things for it. Living with a family means to live happily. It is the center of human life. Humans are a blank paper when they are born and families have to fill this blank paper with things that draw big dreams for their children. When the family goes, nothing stays the same, humans can change and start finding a place where they feel a sense of community. In Richard Wagamese’s book, “Indian Horse”. He wrote about sacred events in Indigenous Canadian history. Saul Indian Horse is an Indigenous Canadian, lives with his parents and siblings in the Winnipeg River. During the novel, Saul experiences cultural genocide and loss of family through residential school.The novel highlights the meaning Family and finding true relationships. Family plays an important role in Saul’s life: he is stronger with a family, he is powerless without family, and lastly, he experiences family weakness in the last chapters.
Saul is strengthened when he is with family and the sense of community that he didn’t find in the residential school: Saul’s grandmother moved with Saul to Manaki to keep him alive, Fred and Martha become Saul's family after the loss of his family, Saul enjoys playing in The Moose team and the friendships. First, Saul’s grandmother acts wise and takes care of Saul and moves to a warmer place than God’s lake. Saul says, “If our canoe hadn't hit that boulder we would have made it to Minaki. 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 have cast adrift on a strange new river”(42). Saul describes that his grandmother is a sacrificial woman and helped him stay alive, she died in the snow and helped him to move to a warmer place after his parents went to bury his brother Benjamin. Saul also feels that he is alone and his strength vanishes as he points out that if he made it to the border she could take care of him, but she died. The quote marks the beginning of searching for a new life and family. Moreover, Saul chooses to live with Fred Kelly to escape from the violence at St.Jerome’s. Saul describes:
Fred and Martha Kelly were good to me. They didn't try to be parents. They settled for being friends, and Virgil and I grew close. He was my greatest ally. I'd never done homework before or had teachers pay any attention to me. The idea of school as a process of grades and expectations was new and frightening(114).
Saul seems to like his new family Fred and Martha. Also, he is happy with Virgil, the son of Fred, he describes him as his teacher and Virgil encourages him to succeed in school and hockey at the same time. Saul finding a new family is the freedom and the reference for him because Fred and Martha experienced the same as Saul experiences at St.Jerome's which makes the communication easier between them. Besides, being part of The Moose hockey team makes Saul realize the importance of friends and he feels that they are like his family. Saul speaks about the joyful moments in the tournament in The Moose team. He says, “We only thought of the game and the brotherhood that bound us together off the ice, in the van, on the plank floors of reservation houses(113). Saul learns how to build friendship in the tournament and playing hockey is not as important as being with Moose hockey players. Saul gains respect because of his talent and he gains confidence during playing. The strong relationships transform to the term “family” in Saul's perspective. The Moose team have a big influence on his life and his developed talent. Therefore, Saul searching for a family is important as he grows up without a family. Family means the center of strength to Saul.
Indeed, Saul was defenceless when he was left alone. First, he couldn’t defend himself when his grandmother died. Second, he could not do anything for his classmates. Finally, he was powerless when he knows about the sexual abuse he experienced in the school. Saul was afraid of the people who took him and could not say anything to them about his grandmother that died. At the end of Chapter ten, he says, “Somebody lifted me and I felt the old woman's arms fall away. I reached out to her, shouting in a mixture of Ojibway and English…..I wanted to pull her to her feet so we could keep on walking…… But instead, I was born away”(42). Helping his grandmother was hard.The people were only concerned about taking Saul from his family. In this scene, Saul could not defend or speak to them because he was small and they did not care what he would say. Furthermore, Saul and his classmates were experiencing sadistic punishments, they were punished until they hated their tradition and culture. Saul describes what he feels he says, “I didn't mind that. I was sore inside. The tearing away of the bush and my people was like ripped flesh in my belly. Every time I moved or was forced to speak, it roared its incredible pain. And so I was isolated. I wasn't a large boy and I could disappear easily. I learned that I could draw the boundaries of my physical self- inward…”(48). Saul feels sad about his classmates, but he was like them and there is nothing to change this reality. The feeling of pain is obvious and the loss of family makes everything even worse to Saul and other classmates. The quote is a realistic portrayal of what happened to Saul at St. Jerome’s. Also, family powerlessness was shown when Saul knew the truth about Father Leboutilier. He highlights the sexual abuse makes him feel the love for his grandmother that time back at St. Jerome's. He says, “I became Indian horse enraged because they were taking away the only protection I had. When that happened, I knew that the game could not offer me protection any longer. The truth of the abuse and the rape of my innocence was closer to the surface, and I used anger and rage and physical violence to block myself off from it”(200). Saul speaks about how he felt love with Father L. even if he was sexually abused. Saul just thinks of his grandmother's arms covering him. Sadly, Father L. was using him to ensure that he allowed him to play Hockey and clean in the morning. He also noticed the source of his anger in playing Hockey and he could not defend himself because he realized that when he became older. Consequently, Saul loss of family influenced worsly on his life, they were not with him and he could not know how to defend at an early age.
Subsequently, family weakness was demonstrated through the last chapter of the novel: Saul began to be aggressive, he left the hockey team, lastly, he became an alcoholic. After the huge amount of racism in the hockey rinks, Saul seems not to control his anger, unlike the past where it is the escape for him. In chapter 38 Saul says, “If I inadvertently high-sticked someone during a tussle in the corner, I was taking scalps. When I did not react to getting a penalty, I was the stoic Indian”(163). When Saul was playing in Toronto, many famous and strong teams were playing with him. This illustrates the family's weakness, Saul is tired of everything and wants the feeling of “family” again. Moreover, the couch in Toronto kicked off Saul for being aggressive which made him extremely alcoholic. He says in chapter 44, “I became drunk with that. Addicted. My new escape sustained me for a while. Whenever the stories and the invented histories started to unravel, 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. Finally, though, the drink had me snared”(181). As many people consider alcohol as an escape from sadness. Saul appears the same. At this time, Saul appears completely giving up. He wants to see life, but he can not see or reach it as he says, “It was a dim world. Things glimmered, never shone”(181). The family weakness is completely shown in this quote. He doesn't have anyone to care for him and he doesn’t have someone to care for. Overall, Saul wants to fill the gap in his life and this gap is his family. Saul becomes like his parents alcoholic.
To sum up, a family is a big influence on Saul's life, he is well when he is with a family, he can not defend without somebody to care for him, and he becomes tired and gives up if he is not with them. Wagamese always uses the example of family and represents the importance of belonging, and he writes about how Saul's family is helping him to fight his past, and become evolved in the community. Family is a world of warmth and love, and a wide embrace full of hustle and bustle, laughter, smiles, words, secrets and tears. Family is the proudest thing a person possesses; because it is the homeland. At some point, humans leave their families and begin to find a family or make a family through relationships. Humans will know the meaning of family once they leave them. To conclude, family is the great tree that casts the shadow on its children and prevents them from the flames of day and heat of calamities and unites them with its fruits.