St. Jermome’s Indian School

04 Feb St. Jermome’s Indian School

Indian Horse takes a dark and lonely turn when Saul is sent to the St. Jerome’s Indian School. His classmates call him “Zhaunagush” because he speaks and reads English, which saves Saul somewhat in the eyes of the priests and nuns because Indian talk isn’t tolerated. Kids learned to speak “without moving their lips, an odd ventriloquism that allowed them to keep their talk alive.”

Saul says his insides were sore. “The tearing away of the bush and my people was like ripped flesh in my belly.” The reader is spared graphic details yet Wagamese uses simple poetry to describe victims of the school–a sparse hand that is fitting of the landscape of St. Jerome’s’ the cold disregard for human life.

There’s Arden Little Light, “a skinny Oji-Cree kid with a bad limp where a trap had sprung closed on his ankle.” His nose ran constantly and the nuns could not break him of the habit of using his sleeve, rather than a hankie. So they tied his hands behind his back and with snot running down his face, he began to cry, making the situation worse. Snot pooled on the classroom floor. They strapped him for it. This became a regular punishment for Arden Little Light. He was six years old. One morning the nuns found him hanging from the rafters.

Talk about sore insides…the passages involving the cruel abuse of children at the hands of clergy are hard to stomach. But they’re based upon the truth and it is only by facing our darkness that we can begin to see the light…a central theme of this remarkable novel.

See you tomorrow,