Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Indian Horse: An Exclusive Interview with Actor and Narrator Wayne Baker


Wayne Baker, Raven clan, as Shaboogesik in the movie, 'Indian Horse'.

I was fortunate enough to conduct an in depth and personal interview with Wayne Baker, a member of the Squamish Nation, British Columbia, Raven clan. Wayne is a First Nations actor from B. C. with close ties to Akwesasne. He has acted in movies such a Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, North of 60, Supernatural, Blackstone and many more. Wayne had the privilege to play a part in the award winning film, "Indian Horse", which was adapted from the novel by Richard Wagamese. Clint Eastwood, Paula Devonshire, Trish Dolman and Christine Haebler produced the film. The author of the novel, Richard Wagamese, gave his blessing for the film to be produced, but sadly, he passed away soon after.

The novel, Indian Horse, is a story of how a young First Nations boy is ripped away from his family, quite literally, and everything he knows. The main character, Saul Indian Horse, is taken away and placed in one of the Canada's notorious residential schools during the 1950's. He finds an escape through playing hockey, which he is exceptionally good at.

There has been both positive and negative feedback on the film, with the majority being positive because of how powerful the message is. The film has been so powerful that there have been grief counselors available on site for those who watched the film.

The film has won numerous awards at all the film festivals it has premiered in: Festival du Film Canadien de Dieppe, Victoria Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival and the Edmonton International Film Festival. Indian Horse also made its way all the way to Beijing, China.

The film is reaching the masses in a way that the younger generation of First Nations people and non-natives can witness a part of Canada's dark history. Moviegoers can relate to it in a way that is so overwhelming that it is almost impossible not to shed a tear. One movie reviewer, Glen states, "It would have been easier to watch if it had been an NFB documentary something like Nanook of the North. I could have detached intellectually. But Indian Horse swept me up like the full blown Hollywood-style film that it is (Clint Eastwood is an Executive Producer). I identified with the characters like I did with the character of Brokeback Mountain and The Revenant. It carried me away emotionally and as a result, was that much more."

The film could not have come out at a better time, with all the efforts for reconciliation between the First Nations of Canada and the Canadian Government. Some might say that individuals have appropriated the movie, but some things happen for a reason. The way the film came to be is something that happens by hard work and chance. If it were not for the cameraman being someone that worked alongside Clint Eastwood, Eastwood may have never got on board with the film. With Clint Eastwood's name on the film, it got people's attention that may not have taken a second glance. The film is getting the attention that it deserves. First Nations filmmakers still have hurdles and limitations and the making of Indian Horse is a step in the right direction, now people are listening. There were a few bumps in the road during the release of the film, with information on one of the actors in the film, and his past violence against women. The producers were quick to address the situation by making a public statement. Although it was not the intention of the young woman who released the information, to take away from the film and the message it was trying to deliver. The information did impact the film in such a way that, instead of the release date being a day for celebration, it quickly became a day for damage control.

During the interview I asked several questions, and Wayne answered them openly and genuinely.

How did you get the role of Shaboogesik?

"Well I had originally auditioned for the role of the hockey coach, I got close to it, and I got a call back on it. But I really didn't know much about the book Indian Horse. I didn't get the part for the hockey coach, later on they called my agent and offered me the role of Shaboogesik, and I asked Marlana (Thompson-Baker) if I should do it, and she said, "Do it!". So I did, and then after filming, I was asked to narrate some of the film, and I didn't even know I was going to do it, it just kind of happened. They started asking me to these voice overs, and then over the phone, and recording it a 3rd time, and a 4th time, finally I was like "What's going on here?" The last one they said they were going to meet us at the studio, Christine Haebler, the producer, met me there, and said, "Congratulations, you are the official narrator for the movie." And I didn't really know it then."

Has being a part of the film affected you in any way?

"Well, it was definitely an honor to be a part of something of that magnitude, and being able to be Richards's voice in the movie. I was able to see a part of the filming, where the young boy pees in the bed, and the priest pushing his head into it. I started to get a grasp of the horror of it, and how powerful it really was."

Do you know if any of the actors/actresses were residential school survivors?

"Yes, the grandmother, she was a residential school survivor. My mother was also in there, she had it okay, probably because she was fair with blond hair. My father was a different story, his brothers were in the school before him, and they knew the horrors of it. The story I was told, they went to the school and rescued him, and he was the youngest. They took him and walked miles on the rail tracks back home, and hid him. He was like 3 or 4 years old, so growing up he had a very distained taste for the Catholic Church because of that. My uncles and everybody else their stories aren't so good. I can't wait for my other children in Vancouver to see the movie."

Where was the movie shot at?

"Well, when I went out and filmed it, out in Peterborough, at the old residential school. I only did the scenes of Shaboogesik, but I was able to see some of the other scenes being shot."

Were you able to watch the movie, as a whole?

"Yes, we were able to watch it two times during the film festivals, and we were able to realize just how powerful the movie was because of the magnitude it was, they even had to add more screenings because it was sold out."

Movie poster of the film Indian Horse, at the Beijing Film Festival.

"There's a story I would like to share, my cousin went to watch the movie and she was sitting next to a non-native person, and the non-native person was crying, so she put her hand on her just to console her. After the movie was over, the non-native lady came over and hugged my cousins, and said, "I felt your guy's pain". So just hearing that shows that the reconciliation part of it, it is working - that a non-native can go and watch something like that and understand what really happened - because they never were told anything like that. For Canada to see this, it's going to be an eye opener, education. I think they're going to be showing it in the schools now."

"Indian Horse" will be playing at the Port Theatre in Cornwall from April 27th to May 3rd at 7:15pm. Matinees are scheduled on May 1st and May 2nd at 1:30pm.


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