The Inconvenient Indian
University of Minnesota Press
Thomas King takes us through a different history of North America in his book The Inconvenient Indian though he refers to it as an account because it isn’t a rigorous academic style history. He doesn’t follow a straight line through time, but picks up themes in each of the chapters and explores those themes back and forth through time. Reading the book is very much like sitting in a pub and having a far ranging conversation with a friend.
This friend has a wide range of knowledge about history as well as a vast repertoire of anecdotes to add spice to the history. Add in an acerbic sense of humour and you have a very entertaining conversation; also a troubling one. This is not a book that suggests that we should all be able to just get along, that the whole Indian situation isn’t that bad. The reverse is true. Starting with the story of a massacre that never happened, though there are still memorial plaques to commemorate it and working through the long history of broken treaties and attempts to destroy aboriginal culture in North America, Thomas arrives at the conclusion that there will never be a solution to the Indian problem in North America. Not at least as long as we don’t also solve the White problem.
The Inconvenient Indian will provoke those who want the problem of colonialism to just go away. It will anger people who use prejudice to minimize and marginalize the aboriginal people of this continent. It will give some insight to the issues for those who read with an open mind. If this book was a required text in every history class in North America, it would go a long way to bridging the chasm between the White people who live the assumption that they own the country and the people who were here first.