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The Inconvenient Indian – A Review


The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian is a lot of things, an essay, an opinion and North American history from another point of view. In this book, Thomas King tells it from a native perspective.

History is, of course, a story, a narrative, a version of events, almost exclusively put down by rich white men in the case of North America. That version has already changed and shifted countless times and will no doubt continue to do so. In The Inconvenient Indian, another side is presented, which takes a very different view of things, and presents a lot of information and facts that rich white guy histories conveniently leave out. How does one discover a giant continent that is already populated, for one thing?

As someone with a history degree and someone who couldn’t be much whiter if I tried, I went into this book prepared for a scathing, literary lashing from Thomas King, pointing out all of the many ways that white people have completely ravaged the indigenous people of North America, the land, and themselves, really, with their (our) never ending hubris. Turns out, that’s more my opinion then Mr. King’s, who I thought was more than fair and sometimes downright generous in his assessment of the relationship between indigenous people and the rest of us. This book is passionate, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

This book covers a lot of ground and Thomas King himself admits he bit off a lot trying to cover the entire duration of this relationship in both Canada and the United States. In the snippets of action provided, I suppose he did, but I thought it worked to provide a broad view, demonstrated with plenty of specifics, much like a survey course.

There are a lot of extremely worthwhile takeaways from this book. I honestly think every adult in North America would gain something from reading it, if only the knowledge that there is another perspective out there. The sheer number of tribes and their individuality made an impact on me, since white people are so fond of grouping all indigenous people together in one big clump. I’ve always been aware of this in a hazy sort of way, but never really thought about how silly and arrogant it is to do this. The power and importance of land, land, land, land! Both historically and to this day. And the terrible, terrible danger in anyone, any group of people anywhere having the absolute, complete and total arrogance to believe that their way, their faith and their values are not only somehow the most valid, but superior to everything else. This is a level of greed and hubris that we still see at work in the world every single day. I imagine, left unchecked, it will ultimately be the end of us.