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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  12,036 ratings  ·  1,532 reviews
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
ebook, 266 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Doubleday Canada
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Anne Brittain I took a course last year and this is where I got caught up in 'what about the land'. The professor explained about his people's use of the land and h…moreI took a course last year and this is where I got caught up in 'what about the land'. The professor explained about his people's use of the land and how the child at birth is introduced to Mother Earth and Father Sky. He told how in the winter times, the communities would leave the main areas and go upstream to the various branches of the rivers and streams, as smaller family groups so they did not damage the land. After colonisation, they were forced into centralised groups by the government as it was more convenient for the authorities. As you no doubt are already aware, this meant starvation and dependence on the government handouts. Effectively, by cutting the people from the land, the government cut them off from their spiritual roots (the Mother) and from their capacity to care for themselves as a nation of mature and capable people. Recreating land as an object to be bought and sold, destroys its spiritual component. Forcing the people to live in one area is to despoil the area and destroys both the land and the people.
Al Bergstein He delves quite deeply into the power imbalances you ask about. he also has a significantly long chapter on stereotypes of "Indians", both from TV, mo…moreHe delves quite deeply into the power imbalances you ask about. he also has a significantly long chapter on stereotypes of "Indians", both from TV, movies, books, etc. Not sure what you mean of "the politics of representation" since for the majority of history the "Indians" were not allowed to participate in our "democracy". I'll give you more as I reach the ending of the book. At the 3/4 mark, what I can tell you is that it's not a footnoted "history" as he mentions. It's a very comprehensive narrative that spans the entire history of white European Christian culture and it's tragic consequences for the tribal nations that existed then and now. Having read many books on indigenious peoples, and having created movies with them, this is a must read if you want another opinion on the subject. I certainly consider myself well read on it, and learned many things. One key element is his spanning of both Canada and US relations, which has rarely been explored together. So to be clear, I use "Indians" in quotes, because King clearly states that the term was invented by white power brokers to lump all tribes into one convenient pool to be exterminated or transformed into something for our culture to consume. (less)

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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
Steve Bell
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Elyse  Walters
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thomas King wrote the following at the beginning:
“The Inconvenient Indian” is
fraught with history, underlying narrative is a series of conversations and arguments that I’ve been having with myself and others for most of my adult life, and if there is any methodology in my approach to the subject, it draws more on storytelling techniques than historiography”.

“Any discussion of Indians in North America is likely to conjure at a certain amount of rage. And sorrow. Along with moments of irony and
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: idle-no-more
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
”[For] me at least, writing a novel is buttering warm toast, while writing a history is herding porcupines with your elbows.”

I might never have read this book, had it not been a selection for my real-life book club. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s novel The Back of the Turtle last year—it was one of my 5 star selections. His humour and style are both very appealing to me and reading it was like buttering warm toast. But I’m not much of a non-fiction history reader. I feel like I did my tim
The Inconvenient Indian is, as it states, an account of some events that have occurred in the history of the Native people of North America. It isn’t necessarily a chronological history, but more of a layman’s introductory guide into this subject. So for a reader such as myself, this book was the perfect place to start.

The book covers a wide variety of topics such as (mis)representation of Indians in Hollywood, implications of mandatory residential schools, temporary treaties, wars, the (mis)con
Kara Babcock
Just last week, CBC News announced it was closing comments on articles about indigenous peoples, because at the moment, it cannot guarantee sufficient moderation to sustain polite discourse. In addition to the usual trolls, some people were writing hate speech motivated by a misconception of the state of indigenous peoples in Canada. And while this is reprehensible, it probably shouldn’t be surprising. We white people are very good at ignoring indigenous people—until we want their land, that is. ...more
I'm glad Thomas King let us know, at the outset, that this book would not be a traditional or comprehensive history text. I'm glad he let his anger show for the repeated abuses and murders committed in Canada and the US of first nations people. This book tells of a very different set of historical events from the ones we were taught in school: a history extremely sanitized and completely without regret or sorrow for the hatred and violence directed at indigenous peoples. While I was frequently u ...more
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Not as good as I expected, given the buzz. Too bad, because there is a need for an accessible review of North American history from a Native perspective. Such a book could do much to engage Canadians and Americans with Native issues.

Unfortunately, this book isn't that, and it can't seem to decide what it is. At times it reads like a light and sarcastic opinion piece, other times we get lists of names and historical places with too little context. The net result is a book too hollow to satisfy a
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
A reader looking for a history of Native Americans in Canada and the United States (it is that) should be aware that this work is better labeled a book of essays written by a Native American focusing on the injustices that occurred after whites discovered the continent. And King does a good job of it. It’s a continuously bleak topic, but he interjects humorous asides and anecdotes to make it bearable.

There will likely be many, many detractors arguing how opinionated King is, or that he didn’t b
susanna suchak
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Megan Baxter
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have never read any of Thomas King's fiction. This is a curious omission, given how much I've liked the other media of his I've run across, from the Massey Lecture The Trouble With Stories to the halcyon days when the CBC Radio ran The Dead Dog Cafe. (The episode where Gracie and Jasper were writing political slogans will always be near and dear to my heart. I still know the Stockwell Day one off by heart.)

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
In The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King presents both a personal and historical view of the long history of Indian-white interactions in North America since the first explorations and settlements. Using historical facts, occasional humor, much appropriate irony in the face of events, and personal anecdotes, he presents an outline of 500 years of failed and broken compacts and treaties, attempts of varying success to, essentially, declare the Indian gone from this territory -- or at least remove ...more
I'd give this one a 3.5*s easily becuase I learned A LOT from this book about Indians/First Nations/Aboriginal people of North America. I would certainly say that this was a good start point to indroduce me to a history of the continent and the people who live within it, but I did also feel a little bombarded with facts at some points of the book.

This is a book put together by Thomas King - A native Indian. He wanted to show an overview of some of the atrocities and achievements for Aboriginal p
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is weird how hard it is to care about the plight of the American Indian. I wonder if this is how Israelis feel about Palestinians and every other dominant group feels about the minority they traditionally abuse. I mean, I want to care. I care about various other peoples who face oppression at the hands of white folks. But why do I feel so little when it comes to these human beings in my own backyard?

This understanding that even most bleeding heart liberals lack the emotional energy to call fo
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, honest and humourous all in the same breath. Thomas King has written the most objective book on Indigenous nations in North America and somehow while staying honest and presenting very clear examples, he has made topics that are both sad and horrifying and still managed to find lightness. A wonderful read.
I believe I had too high of expectations for this book. King is focused on giving the reader an overview on the history of false promises given to the native peoples of North America and also exploring the identity and expectations of identity of native peoples. I wanted more focused information I could readily recall in conversation to communicate the shitty situation America and Canada have created for the people who loved this land first. Overall, I didn't get as much out of this as I was hop ...more
Don Mackinnon
Feb 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it

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
Sep 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021, 5-star
North American required reading packaged in such an accessible storytelling format. One of the best historical non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Wish this could have been on my high school syllabus!
"The sad truth is that, within the public sphere, within the collective consciousness of the general populace, most of the history of Indians in North America has been forgotten, and what we are left with is a series of historical artifacts..."

From THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King, 2012.

The place where I currently live (Maryland, United States) is the ancestral home of the Lenape, Nanticoke, Piscataway, Conoy, Powhatan, Accohannock, Shaw
I really do, and always have, liked the style of Thomas King's writing, and this is no exception. It's engaging and intelligent each time.

This book reads very much like a text book -- and come to think of it, would work very well as one for a high school class. Why isn't it used that way? We'd all be well-served to learn about this stuff in our early years, and this is an accessible volume for exactly that.

It's pages and pages and pages of the same: of the embarrassing and downright shaming st
Can't recommend this one highly enough. A lot of books are required reading (or should be) for subject matter alone, but this book has the one-two punch of being about something educational and important that everyone living in a colonized country that used to belong to native peoples should read, and also being entertaining and extremely well-written. I finished the introduction and said out loud (to my cat), "I already love this." Or maybe it was a Goodreads status update. Either is likely.

Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Miranda V
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
The author describes himself as a “hopeful pessimist”, which was evident in and very fitting for the tone of a book such as this. I feel like I need to read it again to let all the stories sink in. For now it will be going back to the little library I found it in so that someone else out there may read and learn from it.
Glenda Ricord
Jan 04, 2020 marked it as to-read
Okay, I haven't bought this book yet but I did read the preview. I love Mr. King's way of writing. I have to read this book. Arizona, where I live, has several Indian reservations. We also have casinos owned and run by native Americans. I found the preview to be fascinating, with the author writing in such a light, down-to-earth way that I was left wishing for me. So, I added it to my TBR list, which by the way, is enormous. ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a history book and a biting one. King gives us an overview of Canadian and American native people's history with governments, broken promises and the way they were always ignored what was theirs. ...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 PhD 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 U ...more

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“While the hardware of civilization - iron pots, blankets, guns - was welcomed by Native people, the software of Protestantism and Catholicism - original sin, universal damnation, atonement, and subligation - was not, and Europeans were perplexed, offended, and incensed that Native peoples had the temerity to take their goods and return their gods.” 18 likes
“You know what they say. If at first you don't succeed, try the same thing again. Sometimes the effort is called persistence and is the mark of a strong will. Sometimes it's called perseveration and is a sign of immaturity. For an individual, one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again in the same way and expecting different results. For a government, such behavior is called... policy.” 17 likes
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