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

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  6,183 Ratings  ·  852 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
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…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.

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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)
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: idle-no-more, cftc
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
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
”[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 time
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
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.

Ben 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
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
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
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
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
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
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
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
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
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.
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
Tom Whalley
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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. There was also more anger in this than I expected to f ...more
Harry Maier
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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,
The four stars here (instead of five) reflects my general distaste for non-fiction rather than the book's merits. For someone like me who doesn't read / doesn't usually like non-fiction, King made this a remarkably readable and moving book, despite the enormous complexity and scope of the topic. I really liked his circular approach to history, and how the book didn't follow a linear structure. It's a devastating book, but beautifully written in King's trademark casual, smart, tell-it-like-it-is ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Brilliant, biting, frequently funny and suffused with anger.
I don't often award a 5 star rating but this book was stellar. Thomas King somehow manages to take a deep look at both Canadian and American Native histories and distill them down into something manageable, engaging and often funny. I had heard of the title and knew it was one that I needed to get around to reading but I didn't pursue it until I saw it sitting on a featured books shelf at my library. As I flipped through the prologue, I was struck and carried away by King's masterful use of lang ...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
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
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've wanted to know about Native/White relations in North America and this book has done much to fill that quest. The author is able to explain the history and the issues in a way that makes it easy to understand. He also has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor that makes this book enjoyable in spite of the difficulty of absorbing how badly the Natives of North American have been and continue to be treated. I admit that there were times that all the dates and names got a bit tedious, but I'm so glad ...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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“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.” 13 likes
“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.” 10 likes
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