Saul’s tribe has a story about how the first Indian horse arrived. The Fish Clan knew nothing about horses. They had no boats or bridges or maps. They lived surrounded by “untamed” nature. Saul’s great-grandfather, Slanting Sky, was a shaman—a healer and religious leader of the Fish Clan. One day, Slanting Sky came through the land leading a strange creature. He led the creature back to his people and told them its name: horse. Slanting Sky showed his people how to ride the horse and use it to haul heavy logs.
The story reveals that Saul comes from an important family within his tribe, since his great-grandfather was Slanting Sky. It also helps show that the Fish Clan practices a way of life in which the natural world plays a dominant role. Members of the Fish Clan lack many technologies that Westerners take for granted (like boats or bridges), but Saul depicts them as a wise and proud people.
Shortly afterwards, Slanting Sky told his people that the horse represented a great change—a change that would “scorch” the life of every Fish Clan man, woman, and child. The people were frightened and confused by this speech. But they decided to take care of the horse, anyway. Eventually, “Indian Horse” became Saul’s family name.
Saul’s family name is a constant reminder of his proud heritage. But it is also a symbol of the demise of his people and their culture, as this passage foreshadows. (The arrival of horses in Indigenous communities in Canada did symbolize the end of an era, since it marked the arrival of European colonizers who wiped out much of Indigenous Canadian society.)