Indian Horse


Richard Wagamese

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Indian Horse: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

One day, while Saul and his family are living in Redditt, Benjamin reunites with them. He’s run away from the school and, following rumors, tracked down the rest of his family. There’s a great celebration when Benjamin returns, but soon, it becomes clear that he’s contracted a “coughing sickness” during his time in school.
Benjamin’s sickness (which appears to be tuberculosis, or another similar disease of the lungs) could be said to symbolize the lasting damage Canadian-European culture caused to the Indigenous community. Benjamin escapes from school, but the harm has already been done.
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Naomi argues that the family needs to move again because the white men will come looking for Benjamin soon. She adds that Saul and Benjamin should begin dancing the manoomin, the Fish Clan’s traditional dance. With this in mind, the family heads toward Gods Lake.
Naomi asserts her authority over the rest of the family: She’s the eldest and is therefore seen as the wisest and most competent leader of the group. It is her duty to uphold her clan’s traditions, such as the manoomin.
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The family leaves Redditt and journeys to Gods Lake. They canoe past beautiful forests and mountains. During the journey, Naomi tells her grandchildren about the “Long Ago Time,” when Fish Clan hunters tried to catch the moose. The hunters trusted their intuition and followed the moose all the way to Gods Lake. There, the hunters heard frightening laughter, and retreated. But years later, Saul’s grandfather journeyed to Gods Lake. He had a vision in which he and his family settled by the lake and harvested rice in peace. Ever since this time, it’s known that only the Indian Horse family can live in Gods Lake. Saul wonders if he and his family will be able to flourish in “this land that was ours alone.”
Saul’s family, and Saul’s family alone, has a claim to Gods Lake. The Fish Clan tribe, like others, assigns meaning to natural phenomena, interpreting them to apply to their own lives. In general, the passage emphasizes the importance of tradition and storytelling in the Fish Clan, as stories are shown to have similar importance to laws in European-Canadian society.
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