Indian Horse


Richard Wagamese

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Indian Horse: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

The Moose’s victory changes their hockey schedule for the rest of the year. Everyone hears about how a little-known Indigenous Canadian team defeated the reigning champions, and soon enough, every hockey team in the area wants to play against the Moose. The team travels all over Canada, winning far more games than they lose.
Saul’s talents lead his team to compete in other matches around the country—against white teams that previously refused to play against an Indigenous team. This suggests that the spirit of competition allows people to look past their racial prejudices momentarily.
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The Moose’s hockey games become more violent, especially when they play against white teams. Sometimes, Saul encounters white players who try to “rough him up” on the rink by playing more aggressively than is necessary, but he’s usually able to outmaneuver them on the ice. Other times, big fights break out between the players. This only encourages Saul to become a better player.
As before, Saul is able to bounce back from adversity and use the experience to become a better athlete.
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When the Moose play in Northern Ontario, they encounter hatred unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. The opposing team, and its many fans, see the Moose as “brown faces,” nothing more. Once, after winning a game, Saul and his teammates go to a local café to celebrate their victory. A group of big, tough-looking white men approach the team and declare, “We don’t eat with Indians.” Virgil boldly asks the men to step outside. A couple minutes later, Virgil staggers inside, his face covered in blood. Then, the white men order other players to step outside with them. Each time a player steps outside, he comes back horribly injured. The white men sneer at Saul and tell him he gets a pass tonight.
In this painful passage, it’s implied that the reason for the aggression of the white Ontarians is that Saul and his teammates win their game. Thus, the racist townspeople’s behavior isn’t simply a reflection of their racism—it’s a reflection of their embarrassment at having been beaten by people they regard as inferior in every way. The townspeople are so committed to this viewpoint that, rather than taking their defeat as an opportunity to reevaluate their prejudices, they instead resort to brutal violence to assert their dominance.
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Later, Saul learns that the white men beat up the Moose players and urinated on them. Virgil tells Saul, “They hate us because we’re skins.” The teammates never mention the incident again, but every now and then, Saul can feel his friends thinking about it, bottling up “all the hurt, all the shame, all the rage.”
As Wagamese describes it, the aftermath of the racist incident is almost as painful as the incident itself: Saul’s teammates seem to have been traumatized by the experience, and continue thinking about it long after the physical injuries have healed. There is the implication that the event will have negative repercussions on the team’s performance, as well.
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