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The Inconvenient Indian

A Curious Account of Native People in North America

2013
Author:

Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian

A brilliantly subversive and darkly humorous history of Indian–White relations in North America since first contact

Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact. 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.

No writer is better positioned than Thomas King to tell a richly Native history that reveals the common threads weaving North American patterns across the boundary line between Canada and the United States. The Inconvenient Indian sweeps up popular culture, law and policy, and the complexities of resistance and reinvention, framing all the tough issues through King's powerful storytelling and penetrating eye.

Philip J. Deloria, University of Michigan

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.

The Inconvenient Indian

Thomas King is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, and photographer. His many books include the novels Medicine River; Green Grass, Running Water; Truth and Bright Water; two short story collections, One Good Story, That One (Minnesota, 2013) and A Short History of Indians in Canada (Minnesota, 2013); nonfiction, The Truth About Stories (Minnesota, 2005); and the children’s books A Coyote Columbus Story, Coyote Sings to the Moon, Coyote’s New Suit, and A Coyote Solstice Tale. King edited the literary anthology All My Relations and wrote and starred in the popular CBC radio series, The Dead Dog Café. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western American Literary Association (2004) and an Aboriginal Achievement Award (2003), and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004. He has taught Native literature and history and creative writing at the University of Lethbridge, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Guelph and is now retired and lives in Guelph, Ontario.

The Inconvenient Indian

No writer is better positioned than Thomas King to tell a richly Native history that reveals the common threads weaving North American patterns across the boundary line between Canada and the United States. The Inconvenient Indian sweeps up popular culture, law and policy, and the complexities of resistance and reinvention, framing all the tough issues through King's powerful storytelling and penetrating eye.

Philip J. Deloria, University of Michigan

The Inconvenient Indian may well be unsettling for many non-natives in this country to read. This is exactly why we all should read it. Especially now.

Vancouver Sun

King uses stories to turn history upside down. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he presents history with a candour and honesty rarely found in usual accounts of the interaction of aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

Winnipeg Free Press

The Inconvenient Indian is couched in a plainspoken forthrightness that shocks as often as it demystifies. It is essential reading for everyone who cares about Canada and who seeks to understand native people, their issues and their dreams.Thomas King is beyond being a great writer and storyteller, a lauded academic and educator. He is a towering intellectual. For native people in Canada, he is our Twain; wise, hilarious, incorrigible, with a keen eye for the inconsistencies that make us and our society flawed, enigmatic, but ultimately powerful symbols of freedom. The Inconvenient Indian is less an indictment than a reassurance that we can create equality and harmony. A powerful, important book.

Globe and Mail

The author’s wit and storytelling talent make the book easy to read; more importantly, his humor may keep readers from wanting to scream at the injustices.

Kirkus Reviews

King 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 the author’s adult life. The effort shows.

Publishers Weekly

It’s a mistake to expect a scholarly history of Native Americans – though Thomas King certainly has the chops to write it – but what we get instead is something only King could do: a historical and cultural memoir, packed with facts and using narrative as it is best used.

Lit/Rant Blog

Dr. King’s book should be required reading for anyone seeking insider insight into how Indians have been treated in Canada versus the United States.

New York Journal of Books

[King] unleashes a series of atrocities that take your breath away and make you wonder – really, really wonder - just how much bigotry and racism exists under your nose without your seeing it.

BookLust Blog

King’s historical asides are as fascinating as his main points.

Pasatiempo

The Inconvenient Indian should be required reading in every school and university in North America.

Hans Tammemagi, Indian Country Today

If you’re looking for a blunt collection of thoughts on the course of the history of North American Indians, then look no further than Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian.

Lifelong Dewey

From the first page to the last, The Inconvenient Indian shoulders the American Indian burden of helping the White Man understand what it means to be a natural person, a human being. It is a powerful reminder of the big picture and a close look at the details - of Indian history and of contemporary Indian life.

Peter d’Errico, Indian Country Today

If you want to understand what’s happening in Indian Country today, on reservations and in urban Indian communities, Thomas King’s funny, angry, often whimsical and sometimes melancholic meditation, ‘The Inconvenient Indian,’ is a good place to start.

Star Tribune

This is an insightful account and a must read for those interested in a comprehensive examination of national policy on Indian affairs and a must read for those interested in viewing the history of North American Indians with candor and honesty not found in a text book.

Cherokee One Feather

King’s narrative is beautifully written, intelligent, critical, finely detailed, and historically sold, wrapped in personal, personable, and at times ironically humorous presentation.

NAIS

One of Canada’s leading public intellectuals and activists, Thomas King’s work is erudite yet witty and unapologetically opinionated in its understanding of Indian-white relations. Simultaneously angry and humorous.

World Literature Today

Well-written and engaging.

Solidarity—Against the Current

Award-winning novelist King boldly ignores the colonizers’ boundaries that he traverses in daily life to take on both Canada and the United States, offering compelling conversations and vignettes that fuse to form an alternative, story-based account of the past.

Against the Current

King sheds new light on the thorny issues of sovereignty, land, and laws in North American/Indigenous relations, making conversations about land and water rights, Hollywood stereotypes, and legality more accessible, and in many ways more urgent to a wider audience.

SAIL

What is most striking about King’s work is his ability to tell the story of Native people--one that is all too often defined by the tropes of nostalgia, tragedy, and victimry--in a way that honors and celebrates the human spirit.

Journal of American Culture

One month after its publication in November 2012, the Idle No More movement kicked off, a national movement of Canadian Native rights activists, First Nations, Métis, and Inuits protestingfor the government’s respect of treaty rights and indigenous sovereignty. According to Lynn Henry, publishing director at Doubleday Canada, the protesters were respondingto an inconvenient question that has never been seriously considered throughout the last centuries and that is central to Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: “In essence: ‘What do Indians want?’ was the question; and this book gave a frank answer.”

Amerikastudien/ American Studies

The Inconvenient Indian

Contents

Prologue: Warm Toast and Porcupines
1. Forget Columbus
2. The End of the Trail
3. Too Heavy to Lift
4. One Name to Rule Them All
5. We Are Sorry
6. Like Cowboys and Indians
7. Forget about It
8. What Indians Want
9. As Long as the Grass Is Green
10. Happy Ever After

Acknowledgments