On October 13, Bowen Island Community School will be screening the film Indian Horse in the school gym. The screening is geared towards adults and is open to all community members. We hope that this event encourages wider learning and dialogue about residential schools in the lead up to the first ever BICS Orange Shirt week.
Based on the novel written by the late Richard Wagamese, the film tells the story of Saul Indian Horse. While attending residential school, Saul discovers and falls in love with hockey. His skill leads him out of school and into the world of professional hockey.
Apparently, when he set out to write the book, Wagamese intended to simply write a hockey story. The story that he ended up writing was one that delves deeply into his own family’s trauma caused by the residential school system.
As Brian Johnson says in his article on the film in Maclean’s, for Indigenous people, Indian Horse is more than a movie. Residential school survivor Edna Manitowabi plays Saul’s grandmother and told Johnson that scenes of hair cutting and scrubbing penetrated her soul, and that those moments in her own life “severed something very precious.”
Indian Horse represents one of many stories about the residential school experience. We know for a fact, that residential schools made a widespread negative impact on thousands of children and their families, as well as entire cultures. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reminds us that:
The first Canadian residential school was established in the 1870s, the last one to close was in 1996. Generation after generation of Indigenous children were taken from their families to these institutions.
An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children attended residential schools in Canada, more than 6,000 died.
The devastating and abusive conditions suffered by the children living in these institutions was well known by the early 1900s. In 1907, Saturday Night magazine wrote: “Indian boys and girls are dying like flies.... Even war seldom shows as large a percentage of fatalities as does the education system we have imposed on our Indian wards.”
Obviously, it is not easy to communicate this history to elementary school students, but we need to ensure that this part of Canadian history is understood – and ensure that it is never repeated. This initiative joins us with schools across the country that are recognizing Orange Shirt Day, asserting the message that every child matters.
This educational journey is not just for students. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has started the process of sharing stories of survival but understanding these stories and the impact on individuals, families, nations and society will take many, many years. Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has stated:
“If you feel connected to the future of this country, and if you feel responsible for the future, then you need to care about reconciliation, for the sake of the future of this country.”
Part of reconciliation is to listen to stories from victims and survivors and Indian Horse is one of these.
The Film will be screened on Saturday, October 13, 7 to 9 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. We are screening this film for adults. Indian Horse is rated 14 A which means anyone under 14 should be accompanied by an adult. A table of books and resources will be available at the event for anyone curious about avenues for continued learning on residential schools.