WINNER of the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize
The 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
“When we look at Native-non-Native relations, there is no great difference between the past and the present,” writes Thomas King in the prologue to The Inconvenient Indian—a finalist for the 2013 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. The Native activist, academic, and author of the acclaimed novel Green Grass, Running Water backs up this incisive claim with solid research, crackling anecdotes, and sharp insight about the shameful experiences of indigenous people in North America. This powerful, daring book pulses with both righteous fury and self-aware humour.
A Native novelist and vocal advocate for First Nation rights, King (The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative) delivers an intelligent and eye-opening overview of Native peoples in post-Columbus North America in this new volume, a book that "has been a work-in-progress for most of adult life." The effort shows. Fastidiously working his way from convenient and comforting myths (like that of Pocahontas rescuing Capt. John Smith) to the real-life atrocities on the Trail of Tears, at Wounded Knee, and countless other incidents, and on to the 20th century's conscious, legislated marginalization of Natives King demonstrates with sharp and swift strokes how the U.S. and Canada have repeatedly treated Natives as an inconvenience, an obstacle to be rid of, moved, or carefully rounded up, then reimagined altogether. It's also a book that charts how such injustices are often replaced by kinder, more audience-friendly historical narratives; as King quips, "fictions are less unruly than histories." Reminiscent of the subversive revisionism of Howard Zinn, King's deeply personal and knowledgeable account of North American Natives scathes, chides, and often pokes fun, but suffers from a unilaterally sardonic tone that seethes with understandable indignation but leaves too little space for hope or progress.
I couldn't agree less with the previous reviewer. I too read the book in two days, and was completely absorbed and fascinated. King peels back the layers of deception and broken treaties and reveals an ugly, indisputable truth: Indian history has never been about Indians. It's always been about Whites.
This isn't a "history" in the academic sense--it's a gathering and juxtaposition of facts, a revealing look at the underlying attitudes that have shaped the "Indian question" since the earliest days of European contact. If you're looking for footnotes, look elsewhere. If you're looking for reality, come on in.
Very informative and interesting. I learned much more than I knew before.
Thomas King is a great writer and I am appreciative of his enlightening me.
Have no fear
An excellent account that manages to dissect a heavy subject matter and leave no stone unturned in its supporting evidence. Humour, wit, and personal anecdotes keep the pages turning even when King gets into the nitty-gritty.