TRUSU brings Canada’s shame to the big screen

Indian Horse sheds a light on the abuse faced by Indigenous generations

The TRUSU Equity Committee showcased award-winning film, Indian Horse, in a free film screening for the TRU community on Feb. 13. The film was a host for conversations surrounding the horrors of residential schools in Canada.

The topic of reconciliation in Canada is one that is spoken about often but many who have not faced the crimes and horrors that generations are still dealing with today may not completely understand.

The Equity Committee prefaced the film screening with a background of the pain that many Indigenous people faced, many of whom are still a part of society today.

Much of what is taught makes the residential school system seem like that it is of the distant past but this is not the case. The last residential school to close its doors was the Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan in 1996, a mere 23 years ago.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) operated as one of 130 schools within the Canadian Residential School system. The KIRS opened in 1893 and continued until it’s closure in 1977. Hundreds of  Secwepemc children were placed in the care of the residential school and more often than not, forcibly removed from their families and forced to assimilate and banned from practicing their culture and spirituality.

Indian Horse is based on the novel by the same name by Canadian author Richard Wagamese. Wagamese was an Ojibwe from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in northwestern Ontario who spent the last years of his life in Kamloops. He was also given an honorary doctorate from TRU in 2010.

Although Wagamese did not attend residential school, he still faced a lot of the pain via his mother, aunts and uncles who were residential school survivors. 

Indian Horse itself is set in the late 1950s Ontario and revolves around eight-year-old Saul Indian Horse. Saul was torn from the arms of his grandmother and fellow member of the Ojibwa tribe and forced into a notorious Catholic Residential School.

In this Residential School, Saul was denied the right to practice the traditions of his culture and speak his traditional language. This oppressive treatment, criminal by today’s standards, was a harsh reality that many children faced in Canada not too long ago.

Amid the horrendous abuse witnessed in the school, Saul became drawn to hockey, as if his spirit called for it specifically, and became a natural hockey legend. His immense talents whisk him away from the terrors of the school but Saul is continuously faced with horrible flashes of the abuse he’s witnessed.

This film was an honest and beautifully written tale of how long the pain can linger after such a horrific event. The concept of intergenerational pain is an issue that many Indigenous families face to this day and Indian Horse was a testament to how long a person may carry those burdens.