The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
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The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  986 ratings  ·  209 reviews
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 curi...more
ebook, 266 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Doubleday Canada
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I learned a lot from this and was blown away by King’s ability to compress so much history by focusing on a limited set of themes. King does a great service in explaining the long history of Indian-White relations in North America so clearly and in using the sweep of the tragic failures to urge us all to do better in the future. This is no dry history, but a personalized account. I also appreciated his cushioning of uncomfortable truths with ironic humor and a sense that we are all facing the pr...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Tough one to review. King explicitly states at the outset it will be his own personal approach to a topic that spans 500+ years, consists of hundreds if not thousands of independent tribes (not a heterogeneous group - call them First Nations, Aboriginals, Native Americans, or Indians, as he prefers), and is fraught with legal, political, tribal and even linguistic complexity that crosses and differs across borders.

He acknowledges that he is more comfortable with fiction, and that he won't be pre...more
Steve Bell
Great read! If the content wasn't so devastating it'd be a hilarious book. Thomas King is a skilled writer who magnificently rabbit-trails through 500 years of Indian/Settler history with his entertaining, laconic wit, unique eye and keen intelligence. Although it's a bit of an uncomfortable read if you happen to be (as I am) a white, Christian male: King, at one point refers to Christianity as the "gateway drug to supply-side capitalism." Ouch...

Read about:
- the white creation of the universa...more
so Tom King (and i can call him that cause everyone in Guelph knows him as Tom rather than Thomas) is very upfront about the fact that this is a personal story for him. yes, he says, there are facts - documented 100% accurate historically-documented facts within The Inconvenient Indian ....but .... as a First Nations story-teller, he knows you will never get the whole picture from facts alone. and he is happy to add the filling between the facts ... a filling rich in his experiences and impressi...more
Truth be told, I expected a little more than this out of Thomas King, "... one of Canada's premier Native public intellectuals." (as described on the book's jacket). At the very least, we have a most disingenuous "account" of the "Indian" in North America -- but then we do have King's own apologia on the topic which at great length describes why this is an account, and not a history. Point well made, indeed, for he plays more than a little fast and loose with North American history as a whole.

Brilliant, biting, frequently funny and suffused with anger.
Rebecca Foster
I wasn’t able to read the whole thing before my NetGalley loan expired, but a thorough skim convinced me that King’s is a witty, engaging cultural history of Native American and First Nations peoples. King is of Cherokee descent himself; he was born in California and lived in Alberta and Ontario before settling in Minnesota.

If his tone occasionally comes across as cynical, can you blame him? The story of native peoples in North America is one of constant setbacks and broken promises. Education i...more
One-Minute Review

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America is a good old-fashioned romp through history. I don't mean by this that it's a slighting account of Native People or the almost always harmful government policies directed at them; I mean that Thomas King’s inclination is to slay historical taboos with the joyful abandon of a child swatting at dandelions with a stick. He doesn't dance around thorny issues but rather charges right at them. Despite this,...more
R. B. Young
Funny, but only because you'd cry if you didn't laugh. King's thesis is that North American Indians have always been -- and still are -- seen by the British, French, American, and Canadian governments as an inconvenience to be gotten rid of. In the section about who is and isn't considered an Indian (by both Whites and Natives) provided some absurd examples that I laughed out loud about as I read. Serious stuff that every informed North American should know. But before I scare you off, King does...more
In Inconvenient Indian King takes an immensely complicated topic and distills it into something that's accessible, and not only that, he also makes it engaging and lively. The issue of Native-White relations is not something that you'd generally perceive as something that's lively. Heart wrenching, controversial, yes, but lively not so much. But King is one of a hell of a writer. He continually acknowledges the tough stuff but always demonstrates this with wit and the occasional sarcastic commen...more
Thomas King is a dangerous man: he is a story teller grounded in an indigenous tradition with more than a hint of coyote about him – which means his stories are deeply serious while they disrupt, unsettle and discombobulate much that is taken for granted. All this gets to make him one of Native America’s intellectuals and teachers. On top of that, he has all the credentials ‘newcomer’ society has at its disposal to mark an intellectual: PhD, scholarly writer and researcher and University Profess...more
Tom Whalley
This book will bum you out. It should. The Inconvenient Indian is (quite explicitly) not a history text, but an account of Native People in North America; it is a book about the ramifications of colonization and the systemic way that white culture has worked to destroy North American Aboriginal culture, written by an author who states he is more comfortable with fiction. It is not a history text, King explains, because he doesn't feel the huge amount of research needed for one would help with th...more
First, what this book is not. It is not a scholarly, deeply researched, footnoted, annotated, dusty and turgidly written account of the treatment of the Native People (NP) in North America. The title may give a partial hint as to what this book is about, but again, that is not entirely accurate either. The book reads almost anecdotally as King tells stories, covers events and makes his points with an almost completely self-deprecating tone. I wish I could place this book into a neatly defined pl...more
Just A. Bean
So I bought the damn thing and read the last ten pages. Good book, happy to give Mr. King the royalties.

It is not, by King's own admission, a comprehensive history of events. Nor is it a 200-hundred-page rant, though it does contain ranting and history. The book seems to me like an attempt to explain what it FEELS like to be First Nations in the 21st-century, both with the weight of history and culture expectations, and with current politics and culture.

The writing is sharp, funny, and more than...more
Don Mackinnon
I read this book because it was a selection of my book club, otherwise I probably wouldn't have finished it. I had hoped for a unique perspective on the native situation in North America, maybe some suggestions on how it can be improved and, at least an entertaining read. Instead I got a condescending rant from a leftist, professional Indian who is groaning under the oppression of the "white man" in the midst of the ivy covered walls of Canadian academia. The Indians have suffered,horribly and u...more

Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian A Curious Account of Native People in North America just won this year's RBC Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction and I must confess that I find it a curious choice. Although the stories he shares are undoubtedly true, he prefaces the book by saying that this is not a conventional history because then he "would be obliged to pay attention to the demands of scholarship and work within an organized and clearly delineated chronology". It is, rather, "a series...more
Sure, the author knows his stuff, and certainly he shares his knowledge with wit and appealing style, but I'm left feeling that it is just the first chapter of the book I wanted to read. He seems to be tired by his tirade and has little energy left at the end for helping me understand what could be done now to move things in the right direction. I'm not sure, (and he'd dislike me for saying this) 'what it is he wants' and how he thinks we can get there.
Shonna Froebel
I had to take a break from reading this book at one point because I was getting too angry at the way natives have been treated. There are elements here from King`s Massey lectures, The Truth about Stories, but he has taken things further and given more examples.
King is careful to indicate in his introduction that this isn`t a history, although it contains many references to historical facts. He includes personal anecdotes, but not footnotes and references. As he says, it isn`t an academic work....more
John Moyer
I wanted to rate this book far higher than I did because it is, most of all, an important book. Thomas King doesn't spare anyone in his "discussion" of the North American Native people. Within these pages is the book that everyone who lives in America or Canada (sorry Mexico, but he doesn't write about you) should read.

But, with that said, Thomas King didn't write that book. Instead, we have a collection of chapters written in a colloquial, familiar way that does much to illustrate the sorry his...more
In this latest book by author Thomas King, he points out that history is really 'stories we tell about the past'. But these stories aren't chosen by chance and Dr King has a problem with the ones which have been chosen previously. So, in this book, he chooses which stories to tell. And what a story teller he is!

This is not your normal history. That Dr King is, first and foremost, a novelist is very apparent in the book. This is not a comment on the validity of the history but on its readability....more
Harry Maier
King does not claim have furnished us with the authoritative account of the native people in North America from first contact on. He rather offers a different kind of report that points up the failure of Canadians and Americans to come to terms with its history and its continuing practices of systemic injustice. It is a commentary on the present offered in the form of historic narrative. Today Census Canada revealed that since the last census the aboriginal Canadian population has grown by 30% a...more
Andy Shuping
Galley provided by NetGalley

This is one of those books that is very difficult for me to review, not just because of the story that Thomas tells, but the way he tells it. He doesn't just tell us the history of the people, in fact he tells us that he won't be giving us a history book. Instead, he's weaving together a tale with facts, and stories, and legends, to tell us about the Native people. He guides us on a journey to relook at what we think we know and see it in a new light.

Native American h...more
Susanna Suchak
Thomas King makes facts, if not palatable, readable. However, when I say "readable" I mean that you will no longer forget them AND they will change your way of looking at life, history and "Indians". This particular book should be required reading in all North American high schools. Rather than have a segment of curriculum in elementary school for the study of "Aboriginal peoples" what schools need to do is put King and Richard Wagamese on the required reading lists for all students. And dare I...more
Janice Liedl
This is a smart, witty and important book that will make you stop, think and think again about what you know, what you think about what you know and what you never had any idea about when it comes to the First Nations of North America.

Some people might find King's dark and wry tone a bit hard to handle but I expect that it was the only way he could work through all of the almost poisonous material in the horrible treatment meted out to indigenous peoples from early contact through today. See Ian...more
A.J.B. Johnston
There are many adjectives I could use to describe this book, all of them very good: clever, thoughtful, witty, masterful. King has taken a complex (and often confusing) subject and made sense of the past and present of the situation in which Aboriginal people in North America have found and still find themselves today. The book has been widely praised and it deserves it all.
Written in an entertaining way, but much like a Michael Moore movie, it's so filled with half truths that it becomes difficult to see what is real. I became more and more frustrated with the author's decision to gloss over important facts that would give a better picture to those who aren't familiar with many of these events (as a teacher of Aboriginal Studies in Canada, I am). When I read the reviews before buying the book I saw many critics but assumed them to be right wing crackpots. Now I re...more
This book is for anyone who wishes to learn about or believes they know anything about the interactions between the aboriginals of North America and whites/government from the first interactions to present day. Thomas King did an amazing job being honest, opinionated, funny, sarcastic and realistic about the continuing opinion of the governments about land and the aboriginal rights to it. More people should be enlightened to the truth of the 'problem'. Thank you Mr. King for writing this much ne...more
Anna Noga
I read this for work, to get an understanding of the First Nations perspective. All I see on tv is that they are asking for more money or are blocking something. I learned a LOT, especially where the mistrust of whites and governments comes from---endless broken promises. He was very humorous but sometimes I tired of the sarcasm. It is clear that these people have been treated unfairly which has had dire consequences. Thousands have died because of how they were treated. However, I didn't agree...more
Thomas King's version of the history of the North American Indian (his term of choice) has been described as important enough to be included on all Native Studies curricula in Canadian and American universities. Perhaps it should as King credibly reveals the many anomalies in the relationship between the first occupiers of the land and those who came later who wanted said land. The portrayal of the enduring mistreatment of the native populations (residential schools/assimilation) on both sides o...more
I bought this in the autumn of 2013 from an airport bookstore while on my way to a conference, after having agreed to check my carry on then realizing my book was in it. This is a fairly quick read; a humorous, informative, and more than slightly tragic look at the way modern and historic aboriginal North Americans )Indians, First Nations, whatever PC term you choose) are perceived and treated by whites and white culture. The author usually keeps things engaging, either with his humorous deliver...more
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Thomas King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California and is of Cherokee, Greek and German descent. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of Utah in 1986. He is known for works in which he addresses the marginalization of American Indians, delineates "pan-Indian" concerns and histories, and attempts to abolish common stereotypes about Native Americans. He taught Native American Studies at the...more
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“Or, if you want the positive but somewhat callous view, you might wish to describe Christianity as the gateway drug to supply-side capitalism” 5 likes
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