Indian Horse: Film on residential schools receiving consistent accolades

Best-selling novel turned award-winning film with executive producer Clint Eastwood, is continuing to get recognition

At the Pechanga Casino Resort in Temecula, Calif. a mostly Native American audience filed into the resort’s theater to attend the California Indigenous and Native American Film Festival’s screening of “Indian Horse,” a film about an indigenous residential school in Canada.

Indian Horse director Stephan Campanelli with actors Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck, and Ajuawak Kapeshesit who portray Indian Horse from childhood, through adolescence and adulthood. Photo: Mark Day

The film traces the story of eight-year-old Saul Indian Horse who is torn from his family and committed to one of Canada’s notorious Catholic-run residential schools. There he is forbidden to speak his Ojibway language and subjected to a series of abuses, including beatings and rape.

Saul finds relief by teaching himself to play ice hockey. It becomes his ticket to leave the school, but past trauma eventually leads him to depression and addiction. It is only in returning to his first adopted indigenous family that he begins to heal.

“People forget how resilient natives can be, how support from others such as family, friends, the land, allows the healing to take place,” said the festival’s executive director, Dr. Joelly Proudfit of Cal State University’s San Marcos’ California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center. “This film showcases that.”

Indian Horse’s female producers and several other indigenous women filmmakers were honored at the Nov. 1 event.

Indigenous women filmmakers honored at the California Indigenous and Native American Film Festival. At right is Dr. Joely Proudfit, the festival's executive director. Photo: Mark Day

Indian Horse will be released in the U.S. in December. For more information about the film festival visit:

Film Trailer

The Award-Winning Independent Film, Indian Horse, announces its U.S. Accolades in a recent news release

News release in its entirety below:

The best-selling novel turned into an award-winning feature film with executive producer Clint Eastwood, INDIAN HORSE, continues to rack up awards in the U.S. as it makes it theater debut in Washington and Arizona.

Recounting the remarkable journey of Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway child torn from his family and placed in one of the most notorious Canadian Catholic residential schools, INDIAN HORSE brings to light destructive government policies in North America when Indigenous children were rounded up on reserves and reservations and placed in boarding schools to “save the man but kill the Indian.”

The film, based on Ojibway author Richard Wagamese’s best-selling novel under the same name, was created under the advisement of two Ojibway elders who are residential school survivors and in collaboration with two Anishnawbek Nations in Canada.

Winner of 16 film awards, including audience choice at the recent California American Indian and Indigenous Film Festival and the Kumeyaay Award for Indigenous heritage at the San Diego International Film Festival, INDIAN HORSE sold out theaters nationwide in Canada and aided in propelling the movement of healing and reconciliation, including the social campaign, #Next150, following the aftermath of 150 years of residential school.

In June 2008, the first national apology was made to First Nations families and students of residential schools, which was followed by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in 2017, “While this long overdue apology will not undo the harm done, we offer it as a sign that we as a government and as a country accept responsibility for our failings. It is our shared hope that we can learn from this past and continue to advance our journey of reconciliation and healing. We have the power to be better and to do better.”

Nearly 10 years after a nationwide Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created in Canada to address these detrimental policies, the commission issued its final report in 2015 calling for changes health care, education, and other vital areas. #Next150 outlined 21 online actions where audiences challenged themselves and participate in reconcili-Action. More than 10,000 people engaged in this movement after seeing INDIAN HORSE.

Featuring Forrest Goodluck (THE REVENANT, THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST), Navajo/Hidatsa, Mandan, and Tsimshian, as teen Saul in INDIAN HORSE, Forrest’s character takes his love of hockey as a boy and develops it to eventually lead him to the pros. Ajuawak Kapashesit (INDIAN ROAD TRIP, ONCE UPON A RIVER), Cree from Ontario and Ojibway from Minnesota, plays the lead role of adult Saul. First-time actor Sladen Peltier, who plays young Saul, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Canadian Screen Awards for his role in the film. The film is directed by Clint Eastwood’s longtime cameraman, Stephen Campanelli (GRAND ISLE, now in production, THE MULE, MOMENTUM).

INDIAN HORSE opened at the Yakama Nation Heritage Theater on the Yakama Nation in Toppenish, Wash., on November 16. The film will also screen in the Arizona Mills 25 Theater in Tempe, Ariz., on December 7.

INDIAN HORSE continued its run during the 23rd Annual Red Nation International Film Festival in Los Angeles with a screening on November 15. INDIAN HORSE has been nominated for several Red Nation festival awards, including Best Film, Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Actor.

Visit indianhorsefilm.com for more information.

Comments (3)
No. 1-3
susan.degen
susan.degen

I saw a movie called "The Education of Little Tree" many yrs ago. Stuck with me. I wish I saw it before my grandmother died. It explained so much about her that I didnt understan and why she hated the Catholic church.

JackBilly71TL
JackBilly71TL

This comment DOES NOT fit the promotion of the FILM nor the narrative of the article, but what are those Canadian First Nations Tribal Government doing about "public tribal education" of THEIR CHILDREN now? What have they've done and accomplished?