The Inconvenient Indian

The Inconvenient Indian

A Curious Account of Native People in North America

Book - 2013
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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.
Publisher: Toronto :, Anchor Canada,, 2013
Edition: Anchor Canada edition
Copyright Date: ©2012
ISBN: 9780385664219
Branch Call Number: ANF 970. 00497 KIN
Characteristics: xvi, 314 pages ; 21 cm


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Dec 21, 2017

An engaging and accessible overview of the history of indigenous peoples in North America. I found it emotionally affecting.

A subject not easily summed up in a short book, but worthily done by Thomas King. So much to cover, and a shameful history for sure, because it seems the more the US and Canadian governments try to regulate indigenous peoples the stickier and more restrictive things become, usually to the Inconvenient Indians' detriment.

And just how does a righteous invader properly deal with the occupying peoples? You might think that decimation by war, disease, marginalization, and forced assimilation would work just fine. But alas. So, here's to the resilient, strong, determined, and inconvenient Indians on both sides of the border. May they persevere and flourish.

Kris--Pt. Roberts

Jun 15, 2017

Entertaining, if biased, history.

Mar 26, 2017

Thomas King’s flippant, tongue-in-cheek style softens his anecdotal history of the human rights abuses and genocide of North American Natives by 400 years of invading Europeans. But it also sharpens the full weight of the documented inhumane treatment of “Indians” – the desire to eradicate them physically and culturally, the land thefts, the arrogance of forced-then-broken treaties, the economic marginalizing. The book packs an essential wallop and is a must read for every white North American.

Nov 15, 2016

An important book in order to critically understand North America's complete history; should be mandatory reading for university students. Brutally honest, yet cut with wit and the hope that relations between North America’s Natives and non-Aboriginals can improve.

Jul 31, 2016

While King is an engaging writer, this book failed to meet my lofty expectations. He is an expert storyteller, and his book well-researched. However, his cynicism went from witty to grating, making the book at times almost unreadable for me.

I wanted someone to give it to me straight: what have we done wrong, how am I complicit in it, and how do we start making it right? This book showed flashes of promise, particularly when cataloguing Canada's dark history of exploitation and racism, but fell short on suggested solutions.

bickjd May 21, 2016


Packed with deplorable realities and shocking facts, consider this an unconventional crash course in North American "Native" culture, history, and politics. The author’s facetious tone compliments the irony of “Indian Policy”. He holds no punches with his sharp wit:

“Indian policy has discouraged Indians from pursuing traditional goals and aspirations and continues to push us up the cattle chute of capitalism.” (page 117)

King shows how the truth emerges when asking “What do Whites want?”, instead of the historically deceptive—and more common—question: “What do Indians want?” (“Whites” representing the governments and dominant institutions of North America).

The Inconvenient Indian won the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize.

King teaches Native Literature and Creative Writing in Canada at the University of Guelph. His writing is entertaining, informative, and derisive. He sneaks in a lot of wisdom between recurring belly laughs and unsettling sighs.

“Individuals can fool you, and they can surprise you." (page 218)

Anyone interested in Native culture—more so anyone with an eye on the future—should read this book.

May 08, 2016

**Truth #3:**

Canada’s economy was built, and continues to depend upon, the exploitation of Canada’s land and resources for the benefit of its settlers.
Canada’s reliance on natural resources has been an integral part of its economic strategy since its inception. In the early sixteenth century, European fishermen took cod from the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and the Gulf of St Lawrence. These same fishermen began trading their European wares for furs caught by local First Nations people. The rest, as we say, is history.

The establishment of other primary industries, including agriculture, forestry, mining, and oil and gas development, followed quickly.
Today, these primary industries consistently contribute between 5 and 10 per cent of our total economy. This makes the question of who owns, controls, and benefits from these resources as paramount today as it was when Macdonald instituted the National Policy in 1878.

Disputes over the control of these resources continue to abound. Indigenous people from Akwasasne, Tyendinaga, Six Nations, Athabasca Chipewyan, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Secwepemc, to name only some, are confronting governments and industries engaged in mineral exploration, logging, and resource extraction activities that they argue infringe on their autonomy over the lands left to them during the treaty process and fail to benefit their communities.

It is true. Canada’s economy was built, and continues to depend upon, the exploitation of Canada’s land and resources for the benefit of its settler society.

"It's always been about the land. Which is why it's so important to look at the history.

To understand fully:

Take Our Word For It is associated with the Curriculum and Media programs of the American Holocaust Project, envisioned by Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Dakota Nation) and the Eyapaha Institute to document and disseminate the history and contemporary status of Indigenous Peoples in North America from their own points of view. The book will be part of a set of teaching materials dedicated to increasing the awareness of social, political and economic dilemmas currently faced by First Nations.

Mar 29, 2016

It had such good press that I decided to read it. My guestimation of the press' integrity and intelligence, now that I've read it, is much declined. The tone of the book is mostly hokey and jokey, but later it tries to be a bit more serious, but the seriousness is undermined by the use of irony. The basic message is very similar to that of the the pseudo-scholar Ward Churchill, but written in a light tone. No notes, no bibliography. The author doesn't bother to try to be coherent, mixing up different issues sometimes on no other basis than a pun, or an equivocation. What is worrisome is that what is maintained throughout is a deep division between 'Indians' (which he divides into Dead, Live, and Legal) and 'Whites' for everyone else, completely contradicting his claim in the introduction of how he will be using terms. He also totally leaves out any mention of any other groups now living in North America: Central, South and East Asians, all Africans, and the vast majority of Europeans; if one is of one of these heritages, and one works hard, takes risks, does one not deserve the fruits of one's labour? The 'account' - its neither a history nor a narrative, and not quite an argument either - is ambiguous, and tries to either impute guilt (but only to 'whites', reaffirm guilt (but only to well-off 'whites'), or simply accuse (again, only of 'whites'). How is another group to read this book? there is only one way: to pile on the hatred and moral contempt upon 'whites'. I suppose it feels good, if you're one of the non-white people, but its still unvirtuous, and, I must say it, racist. Meanwhile the author all the way through refers to 'Indians' and ends up defining them (or us, depending on your point of view), in essentialist terms, so that there will always be an in-group with a strong divide from all other groups, which is, needless to say, a recipe for hatred and conflict.

patcumming Oct 30, 2015

Every North American should read this book. Yes it is a complex issue but Dr. King recounts this history in an accessible, humourous way.

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Dec 04, 2017

See photocopy.

AnneDromeda Mar 01, 2013

Readers interested in knowing the roots of the Idle No More movement need look no further than Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian. Guelph’s Thomas King may be familiar to you from his fiction (Green Grass, Running Water) or his old radio show on CBC Radio One, The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour. Fans will be happy to know his trademark deadpan humour is captured abundantly here. By King’s own confession, he’s not much one for nonfiction writing. Of Cherokee and Greek heritage, he teaches in the English department at University of Guelph. To get to the truth of things, he’s more comfortable using stories than facts, an admission he freely offers in the introduction. As a result, he’s positioned this work more as an account of Aboriginal/colonial relations in North America than a formal history. Formal histories require footnotes and extensive documentation. As the book makes clear, extensive documentation hasn't done a lot of good for indigenous peoples. Stories, though? They carry a lot of truth a long way. The account is heartbreaking, but King renders the sorrow into something intriguing and even darkly funny with his style, which echoes Native orature in its cadence. He fearlessly tackles the many facets of Aboriginal history in North America that are typically left alone for lack of an adequately politically correct vocabulary. Wide in scope and full of history we weren't taught in school, The Inconvenient Indian is required reading for any politically savvy Canadian.


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Jun 29, 2015

“A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.”

Jun 29, 2015

“The fact is, the primary way that Ottawa and Washington deal with Native people is to ignore us. They know that the court system favors the powerful and the wealthy and the influential, and that, if we buy into the notion of an impartial justice system, tribes and bands can be forced through a long, convoluted, and expensive process designed to wear us down and bankrupt our economies."

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