Indian Horse


Richard Wagamese

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Indian Horse: Chapter 49 Summary & Analysis

Saul prepares to leave the New Dawn Center. He tells Moses that he needs to go somewhere, but can’t explain exactly why. Moses reluctantly agrees, telling Saul that he can return whenever he likes.
Following from the events of the last chapter, Saul appears to have a specific place in mind—one that has some personal significance.
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Saul catches the bus back to White River, and takes a cab to St. Jerome’s. There, he finds that the school is in ruins. The walls are covered in graffiti, and the windows have been smashed. An old man, who introduces himself as Jim Gibney, sees Saul walking by the school, and informs Saul that the school shut down in 1969, partly because so many of the children ran away. Saul explains that he attended St. Jerome’s and played hockey, adding, “They couldn’t keep me on the team.”
St. Jerome’s is in ruins, symbolizing the disintegration of the Indigenous school system (although in fact the last Indigenous schools didn’t officially close until 1998). Even though St. Jerome’s itself is in ruins, the pain and self-loathing that St. Jerome’s fostered in Saul is as strong as it ever was. The passage also reminds readers of how Saul has lost out on the chance to be a great hockey player—Jim mistakenly thinks that Saul couldn’t stay on the team because he was a bad player—not because he left for a better team.
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Saul walks around the St. Jerome’s campus and finds himself remembering his time with Father Leboutilier. When Leboutilier hugged Saul, Saul felt completely and totally loved. This makes him think of Naomi, who he still misses enormously. Saul remembers what Leboutilier used to tell him: “You are a glory, Saul.” Then, he remembers how Leboutilier would kiss him and come into his room at night and put his head under the covers. He also remembers how Leboutilier gave him a job cleaning the ice as a way of ensuring that Saul would keep quiet about the abuse.
In this shocking passage, it’s revealed that Father Leboutilier was sexually abusing Saul during his time at St. Jerome’s. At the time, Leboutilier seemed like the only kind, moral teacher at the school—but now, it’s clear that Leboutilier was perhaps the school’s biggest hypocrite of all.
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Saul begins to feel physically ill. He thinks about the racism and abuse that he experienced as a child, and about how angry it made him to be jeered at by hockey fans. Hockey was supposed to be an escape: a way of flying away from all his problems. But in the end, it was just another source of pain. Saul stands up, weeping. The sun is about to set, but Saul knows where he needs to go next.
It’s starting to become clear why Saul is so filled with anger. For Saul, hockey was supposed to be an escape from the stresses of St. Jerome’s—and, in particular, the sexual abuse he suffered at Father Leboutilier’s hands. But in the end, hockey became another frustration for him. Saul seems to have repressed the truth about Father Leboutilier for many years—but now that he’s consciously aware of it, there seems to be a chance that he’ll be able to begin the process of recovery.
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