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K-12 Evaluated Resource Collection

Indian Horse

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Author/Publisher/Website: Wagamese , Richard
Copyright: 2012
Evaluation/Record Entry Date: Oct/2012
Submitting suppliers/Website: D&M Publishers
Primary Identifier: 9781553654025
Recommended Grades and Subjects/Courses: 9-12
(View recommended grades and subjects)

Resource Description

Indian Horse is an exploration of Canadian identity, told through the story of Saul Indian Horse, a young boy who is abandoned and placed in residential school. This novel is beautifully written and is an accurate and authentic portrayal of the impact of residential school, told by a Canadian First Nations author.

CURRICULUM FIT

Does the resource support BC curriculum?
Extensively
Does this resource address the prescribed learning outcomes for this BC curriculum?
Extensively
Can the resource be used for cross-curricular studies?
Extensively
This product supports the Core Competencies of the BC curriculum:
Reading
Social Responsibility
Writing
Comments:
The novel is a good curriculum fit for English Language Arts, English First Peoples 11 and 12, Social Studies 9, 10, and 11, and BC First Nations Studies, either in whole or in part. The writing is of high calibre and the content is authentic and engaging.

SOCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

Indigenous Peoples:
The novel is an authentic Aboriginal text because Wagamese is First Nations and has life experience and knowledge. However, throughout the novel there are various ethnic slurs toward Aboriginal peoples from other characters in the novel and Aboriginal peoples are referred to as “Indians” but Aboriginal, First Nations, or First Peoples are preferred terminology.
Belief System:
When Saul’s brother dies in Chapter 7, there are tensions between honouring his body using Ojibwa or Christian traditions. Saul finds some peace after re-living his abuse when he connects to his Ojibway beliefs.
Violence:
When Saul plays hockey, there are numerous instances of violence on the ice; at a restaurant, the team members are removed one by one and urinated on by other restaurant guests who are members of an opposing team.
Ethical:
In Ch.11, a boy is beaten. In Ch.12, a boy chokes on soap, a boy hangs himself, a girl goes into a dissociative state, a runaway is locked in the “Iron Sister”. In Ch.14, children slashed wrists, impaled selves on pitchforks, and drowned. In Ch.21, children are beaten naked, and there is description of sexual abuse. In Ch.39, a girl dies and her sister commits suicide. In Ch.49, Saul remembers sexual abuse. In Ch.52, Fred and Martha reveal their abuse. Some underage drinking/smoking throughout.
Humour:
It is common in First Nations communities to laugh and joke at times when it may seem inappropriate, but it is used as a coping mechanism.
Safety:
Throughout, there is use of alcohol to excess; in Ch.8, the family abandons Saul and his grandmother to take the brother’s body to a church and they face extreme inclement weather and the grandmother freezes to death as a result. In Ch.47, Saul “hits rock bottom” and almost kills himself with a drinking bout.
Language:
Throughout the novel there is use of profanity.
Do the social considerations support, rather than detract from, student learning?
Extensively
Social Considerations Comments:
Although there are many social considerations notes, none of the violence, ethical and legal issues, or disturbing description is gratuitous. Teachers should, nonetheless, be cautious in the use of this resource.

GENERAL CONTENT

Content
Is the resource engaging?
Extensively
Is the content current for the intended curriculum and grade?
Extensively
Is the content accurate for the intended curriculum and grade?
Extensively
Is the content timely and important for student broad understandings?
Extensively
Is the resource an Authentic First Peoples Text?
Yes
Perspectives:
BC
Audience:
Is the content appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Extensively
Is the content of particular interest to male students?
Extensively
Is the content of particular interest to female students?
Moderately
Is the language use appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Extensively

Novel

Literary merit
Does the text show insight into the complexity of the human condition?
Extensively
Does the text broaden students’ experiences and understanding?
Extensively
Does the text provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking?
Extensively
To what degree is this text stylistically rich?
Extensively
Plot description:
Indian Horse is an exploration of Canadian identity, told through the story of Saul Indian Horse, a young boy who is abandoned and placed in residential school. There, he learns to play hockey, showing skill, and advances to eventually playing at a semi-professional level. However, no matter how much success Saul achieves, he is consumed by his memories and his struggle with alcoholism. Parts of this novel are heartbreaking, but ultimately, it is a tale of reparation and redemption.
Related Comments:
This novel is beautifully written and is an accurate and authentic portrayal of the impact of residential school, told by a Canadian First Nations author. It would be appealing to most students at the senior level because of its literary integrity, length, grittiness, and subject matter. The novel could also be used by the classroom teacher as excerpts in Social Studies classes.
Genre:
Contemporary
Historical
Literary Highlights:
Complex conflict
Rich Characterization
Well-developed themes
Effective figurative language
Point of view
Type:
Novel

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Readability:
At intended grade level(s)
Comments:
Other novels by Wagamese, such as Keeper 'n Me, and Dream Wheels, are already regularly used in the classroom throughout BC. Although this novel is shorter, it is perhaps more difficult because of its content. Wagamese is available as a performance storyteller and creative writing instructor to visit schools.

SUGGESTED CLASSROOM USAGE

Comments:
This novel would be appropriate as a whole-class novel, for literature circles, and for independent reading. It would also be appropriate to use excerpts in Social Studies classes. In BC First Nations Studies, the novel could be used as a read-aloud or to supplement the section on residential schools. Some of the content is very adult, however, so care should be taken with the intended audience.
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