The New Inquiry: American History

Is Indian history—or are Indians, for that matter—actually real?

king_inconvenient coverFor most non-Natives, Indians exist first in the imagination and then in the historical past. But every once in a while, the North American public is compelled to confront the living Indian in the material world. Last winter, for instance, the Idle No More movement brought large numbers of Indians into places associated with the modernity and mobility of white citizens: shopping centers and highways. These actions forced people who might not have thought of themselves as settlers to witness the grievances of Indians who consistently refuse to disappear. Another kind of testimony about the actuality of Indians emerged at the same time as Idle No More, also aimed at the unaware settler. Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America seeks to enlighten the settler by dispelling the fog that so often hangs around Indians and their relation to the nation-state. First published in Canada where it has become a national bestseller, the book seems written as a last chance for King, a respected public intellectual in Canada of Cherokee and Greek descent, to give his view of how Indians came to be, and what they will become. As a history of Indians told as one Indian’s conversation with himself, it is certainly a more illuminating and bold account of settler colonialism than the usual Indian history told as one white man’s conversation with his own desires.

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Published in: The New Inquiry
By: Lindsey Catherine Cornum