Anyone who has always wanted to know what makes the magic and beauty of ice hockey should definitely read Richard Wagamese’s colorful novel, which is narrow in number but rich in content and narration: “I picked up the disc with the stick and caught it with a swing with his other arm. The goalkeeper screamed and drove slowly back in front of his own goal. I shot over the blue line towards the third attacker, and there was only me, the disc and the net. I flew, I drove as fast as I could, then time stopped, just crawled out. I heard my breath and the other boys screaming behind me, and I felt the blood pulsating in my chest, and I saw the goalkeeper’s eyes, Narrow in focus. “
Then the young Saul Indian Horse scored a great goal, and his great talent was discovered in this game, and he even reached the professional league in big cities. Author Richard Wagamisi was born in 1955 in northwestern Canadian province of Ontario and died in 2017. He is one of the most important writers in Canada, and he is a native of the Ojibwe people. “Indian Horse”, the original English title, won the 2013 Burt Prize for First Nations, Inuit and Metis literature, one of the most important prizes for Aboriginal literature in Canada, and was converted into a film in 2017, produced by Clint Eastwood.
The Fate of Saul shows how Aboriginal children were uprooted in boarding schools in Canada
But Saul not only talks about victories over “frozen skies” on the ice rink and hockey game, which he knows how to read and play better than anyone else, but above all about the fact that she is the only escape from his contention. Racial discrimination, brutal compulsory education and the loneliness that plagues life. It begins with Saul’s desperate journey with his grandmother from a white attack. The old woman is trying to get herself and the boy out through the cruelty of the wilderness with all the Indian survival techniques. But it failed. At school, where people are hated and tortured, Saul withdraws to himself, reading to the best of his ability, until Father Lebotellier finally shows up and discovers the boy’s talent for hockey. But Saul’s isolation, mounting anger, constant racist provocations by ice hockey fans and opposing teams spoil the frozen skies for him. The bat becomes “red”.
Just as easily as Richard Wagames describes hockey’s luck, he describes Saul’s fall through the various stages of alcoholism without any problems. Only when Saul goes in search of himself and returns, does his consciousness become clear: he visits the school that is now in ruins and now remembers on the edge of the former ice rink that Father Lipotillier was not a philanthropist, but rather a sexually guilty.
Richard Wagameses writes succinctly, without emotional pity or tricks, and always stays close to the narrator from the first-person perspective and his first-hand experiences. The book is irresistibly captivating with its confidence in observation and accuracy of description: the nearly noticeable intensity of forest landscapes and weather experiences, the intensity of various noise and effects of light on ice and during the game, the unadorned bitterness and misery of booze.
Wagameses “Indian Horse” is a typical story: in the second half of the nineteenth century, the boarding school system was introduced in Canada, mostly in the hands of the Catholic Church, but also in some Protestant institutions. In these schools, indigenous children have been uprooted and assimilated ruthlessly: separation from their parents, forbidden to use their mother tongue among themselves, deliberate loss of culture, and “civilization” through a harsh punitive regime. There have also been countless physical and sexual assaults. The last of these horror sites wasn’t closed until 1996. In 1998 the Canadian government apologized, but in 2018 Pope Francis refused to do the same with his church. Attempts at algebra have not ended in any way. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the lethal treatment of indigenous children a “cultural genocide” after six years of operation.