The Inconvenient Indian
A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaBook - 2013
In The Inconvenient Indian , Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian-White relations in North America since initial contact. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada-U.S. border, King debunks fabricated stories of Indian savagery and White heroism, takes an oblique look at Indians (and cowboys) in film and popular culture, wrestles with the history of Native American resistance and his own experiences as a Native rights activist, and articulates a profound, revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
Suffused with wit, anger, perception, and wisdom, The Inconvenient Indian is at once an engaging chronicle and a devastating subversion of history, insightfully distilling what it means to be "Indian" in North America. It is a critical and personal meditation that sees Native American history not as a straight line but rather as a circle in which the same absurd, tragic dynamics are played out over and over again. At the heart of the dysfunctional relationship between Indians and Whites, King writes, is land: "The issue has always been land." With that insight, the history inflicted on the indigenous peoples of North America--broken treaties, forced removals, genocidal violence, and racist stereotypes--sharpens into focus. Both timeless and timely, The Inconvenient Indian ultimately rejects the pessimism and cynicism with which Natives and Whites regard one another to chart a new and just way forward for Indians and non-Indians alike.
From the critics
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Readers interested in knowing the roots of the Idle No More movement need look no further than Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian. Guelph’s Thomas King may be familiar to you from his fiction (Green Grass, Running Water) or his old radio show on CBC Radio One, The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour. Fans will be happy to know his trademark deadpan humour is captured abundantly here. By King’s own confession, he’s not much one for nonfiction writing. Of Cherokee and Greek heritage, he teaches in the English department at University of Guelph. To get to the truth of things, he’s more comfortable using stories than facts, an admission he freely offers in the introduction. As a result, he’s positioned this work more as an account of Aboriginal/colonial relations in North America than a formal history. Formal histories require footnotes and extensive documentation. As the book makes clear, extensive documentation hasn't done a lot of good for indigenous peoples. Stories, though? They carry a lot of truth a long way. The account is heartbreaking, but King renders the sorrow into something intriguing and even darkly funny with his style, which echoes Native orature in its cadence. He fearlessly tackles the many facets of Aboriginal history in North America that are typically left alone for lack of an adequately politically correct vocabulary. Wide in scope and full of history we weren't taught in school, The Inconvenient Indian is required reading for any politically savvy Canadian.
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“A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.”
“The fact is, the primary way that Ottawa and Washington deal with Native people is to ignore us. They know that the court system favors the powerful and the wealthy and the influential, and that, if we buy into the notion of an impartial justice system, tribes and bands can be forced through a long, convoluted, and expensive process designed to wear us down and bankrupt our economies."
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