Hard Times in The Residential School

         How could one cope with hardship?That is a question that everybody should ask themselves. Everyone has their own ways of coping with difficulties in life. In Indian Horseand Sugar Falls, the two protagonists in both stories find their own ways to cope withsuffering. These stories take place in the 1960s and 1970s in residential schools, where many First Nation kids begin to run away from the priests and nuns mental and physical abuse. The treatment of First Nation in residential schools is one of Canada’s greatest shame. Europeans took the aboriginal’schildren to residential schools, to eliminate their culture and language, and replace it with the European lifestyle. The author for Indian Horseis Richard Wagamese, and the authors for book Sugar Fallsare David Alexandra Robertson and Scott B. Henderson. In the both sources, Saul and Betsy learn to cope with hardship when they are sexually abused, which causes them to tell their stories. However, while Betsy in Sugar Fallsmakes friends and reminisces of her family, Saul in Indian Horse plays hockey and isolates himself to cope with hardship. Therefore, one should use otherways of coping because every person reacts differently.  


            In Indian Horse, Saul, the protagonist, copes with hardship in the residential school by playing hockey. He tries his best to play hockey by learning the basics and practicing frequently. Also, he isolates himself from family and friends. During the morning, Saul teaches himself how to play hockey. Saul’s job is cleaning the ice rink of his school. He persists through troubles that prevent him from skating. He works harder at cleaning the ice to give himself more time to skate each day. He gives his lungs a workout and clears his mind of everything except ice. Then, Saul develops his skills on the ice by using a horse turd and a stick. Saul shows his skills to father Leboutilier and he decides to put him in the hockey team. Thanks to this,“[He] no longer felt the hopeless, chill air around [him] because [he] had father Leboutilier, the ice, the morning and the promise of a game that [he] would soon be old enough to play” (Wagamese , 66)Saul ‘s mind is finally free from the evils of the school when he learns hockey and starts playing. He is so good at it, so much, so that he is allowed to leave the school to play hockey on a better team. He finds happiness in hockey and that is everything for him. Saul survives his time in the residential school by isolating himself. He is not the most sociable person, so he is quiet, and he does not want to get punished every time he wants to talk. He copes with hardship by being quiet in his own way. Through his experience, “[He] learned that [he] could draw the boundaries of [his] physical self-inward, collapse the space [he] occupied and become moot, a speck” (Wagamese , 48 & 49)That way it is easier for him. When the other children were talking in Ojibway, he prefers to be silent because if nuns or priests see students talking in their own language they would punish them.


In Sugar Falls, Betsy, the protagonist, copes with hardship by keeping the promise that her dad made with her and looking at her house across the river; Therefore, she could distract herself from the realities of the school. Betsy’s goal is surviving the residential school and she holds onto her father’s teaching. She wants to remember where she comes from, what her culture is and wants to remember her background. Throughout the story she said, “So, no matter how hard they try to tear you away from our ways, they will fail because you are strong” (Robertson , 37). Betsy knows that no matter what nuns or priests do to her to make her cry and forget about her father’s teachings, they will always fail. The other way that Betsy survives is by thinking that she is in her house with her family, so she does not have to reflect on the school and her struggles. Whenever Betsy felt sorrow during the night, she just looked at her house across the river, and remembers the good times that she spentwith her family. Betsy states, “Sometimes we were reminded of something better… Just across the river… and we could pretend to be there. Sometimes, we pretended we could even touch the other side”(Robertson , 22). When Betsy works at school, she looks at her house across the river and remembers the good memories that she made beside her family and keeps her memories alive.


Similarly, in both Indianans Horseand Sugar falls, Saul and Betsy learn how to cope with hardship when they are both sexually abused by priests and nuns, and they learn to tell their stories as a way to heal. The pain and self-loathing that St. Jerome’s makesin Saul is as strong as it ever was.Saul seems to repress the truth about Father Leboutilier for many years—but now that he is consciously aware of it, there seems to be a chance that he’ll be able to begin the process of recovery. Saul admits, “The truth of the abuse and the rape of [his] innocence was close to the surface, and [he]used anger and rage and physical violence to block [himself] off from it” (Wagamese , 200). Also, Betsy reveals,“Flora told [her] once how she got through the abuse… especially on the nights he came to get [them], so he could… she would close her mind to it” (Robertson , 27). Saul and Betsy both have been physically abused in the residential school and coped with this in different ways. After Saul realized that he is being abuseby father Leboutilierhe feels anger and rage. Each time when Betsy is abused, she pretends it is just a nightmare. As a result, that was easier to deal with it. Also, Betsy and Saul learn to tell their stories to orderto cope with hardship. Saul and Betsy, both have a bit less pain when they talk to other people about their lives stories, and they could take themselves out of the horribledays. People tell Saul, “people wants me to tell my story. They say I can’t understand where I’m going if I don’t understand where I’m going if I don’t understand where I’ve been”  (Wagamese , 2). Betsy explains, “we need to look at past to teach others our stories and then look forward, together, with knowledge and healing” (Robertson , 40). According to Saul and Betsy, they have to remember the times in the past and where they have been before to make better life for their future life.


In conclusion, bothprotagonists demonstrate ways of coping with hardship. InIndian Horse, Saul copes with hardship in residential schools by playing hockey and isolating himself. Betsy, in Sugar Falls, copes with hardship by holding onto her father’s teaching. Similarly, both of them find ways to cope with their hardship by learning to share their stories to heal. Now in the world today, everybody having their own ways to cope with hard times.