The Inconvenient Indian
A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaBook - 2012
WINNER of the 2014 RBC Taylor PrizeThe Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope -- a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.
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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