The Inconvenient Indian
WINNER of the 2014 RBC Taylor PrizeThe 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
1. Consider the evolution from the title Pesky Redskins: A Curious History of Indians in North America to the book's title The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Indians in North America. Why did King come to the conclusion that this book is not a history? What do you think is the significance of the terms "Redskins" and "Indians"?
Praise for The Inconvenient Indian
WINNER 2014 – RBC Taylor Prize
WINNER 2013 – Canadian Booksellers Association Non-Fiction Book of the Year
FINALIST 2014 – Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2013 – Trillium Award
“King is a Canadian icon . . . The Inconvenient Indian is labeled a history book but it is about Canada today. I suggest teachers include a copy in every school classroom. It made me a better Canadian and more compassionate person.”
—Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children, defending The Inconvenient Indian at Canada Reads 2015
"Thomas King is funny. And ironic, sarcastic, clever and witty. His writing style is direct, offbeat and accessible. . . . [The Inconvenient Indian is] a riveting, sweeping narrative that illuminates, horrifies, stupefies and educates. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the enormous divide that persists between many aboriginals and non-aboriginals."
“The Inconvenient Indian may well be unsettling for many non-natives in this country to read. This is exactly why we all should read it. Especially now.”
“[The Inconvenient Indian is] couched in a plainspoken forthrightness that shocks as often as it demystifies. . . . It is essential reading for everyone who cares about Canada and who seeks to understand native people, their issues and their dreams. . . . Thomas King is beyond being a great writer and storyteller, a lauded academic and educator. He is a towering intellectual. For native people in Canada, he is our Twain; wise, hilarious, incorrigible, with a keen eye for the inconsistencies that make us and our society flawed, enigmatic, but ultimately powerful symbols of freedom. The Inconvenient Indian is less an indictment than a reassurance that we can create equality and harmony. A powerful, important book.”
—The Globe and Mail
“The Inconvenient Indian is a book of stories with a lot of history in it. It may well be the best analysis of how Native people have existed, and still exist, in North America. . . . What a gift this book is. What gratitude we owe this wise and gracious and frisky writer. . . . Even if you think you know North American Aboriginal history, you will be richly engaged by the stories [King] tells. And if you don’t know it, this is a fine place to begin.”
—The Chronicle Journal
“Sharply intellectual and informative, yet humourous and delightfully human, King unearths the myths and misunderstandings about Aboriginal peoples – and there is certainly a lot to dig up. If it’s an act of solidarity and outstanding creative non-fiction you’re after, get yourself a copy of The Inconvenient Indian.”
—Amber Dawn, National Post
“Every Canadian should read Thomas King’s new book, The Inconvenient Indian. . . . It’s funny, it’s readable, and it makes you think. If you have any kind of a social conscience, The Inconvenient Indian will also make you angry.”
“King uses stories to turn history upside down. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he presents history with a candour and honesty rarely found in usual accounts of the interaction of aboriginals and non-aboriginals.”
—The Winnipeg Free Press
“What makes it all palatable, and at times nearly pleasurable, is King’s gift of irony. He’s a master of the lethal one-liner. . . . King wants to make his readers smile even as they wince. . . . This book includes painful reminders of the huge injustices done to Indians in the past. It also sets out a few reasons why the future may be better.”
“Brilliantly insightful. . . . Humour aside, this is an unflinching, occasionally fierce work. Natives are often chided for dwelling too much on the past, yet if this book proves anything, it’s that it behooves all of us to do a lot more of exactly that.”
—Quill & Quire
“The Inconvenient Indian [is] a remarkable narrative of native culture, policy, and history in North America. It’s also a powerful reality check.”
—The Hill Times
“Subversive, entertaining, well-researched, hilarious [and] enraging. . . . In this thoughtful, irascible account, and in characteristically tricksterish mode, King presents a provocative alternative version of Canada’s heritage narrative.”
—RBC Taylor Prize Jury
“The Inconvenient Indian exposes and makes accessible, perhaps for the first time, our perspective of events that have shaped this continent. King is reclaiming our true lived experience in the tradition of our storytellers and artists. He brings humour, razor sharp analysis and insight, compelling every reader to confront the uncomfortable and urgent reality of our peoples today. His voice makes a fundamental contribution to the effort required to engage in understanding and respect for a dignified and just way forward for all who today call this land home.”
—National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
"Fascinating, often hilarious, always devastatingly truthful, The Inconvenient Indian is destined to become a classic of historical narrative. For those who wish to better understand Native peoples, it is a must read. For those who don't wish to understand, it is even more so."
“Not since Eduardo Galeano's astonishing trilogy, Memory of Fire, have I read an account of European contact and the Amerindian experience as full of wit, compassion, humour, irony and pathos as this wonderful and brilliant new book by Thomas King. At moments I found myself laughing aloud, at others wiping a tear from my eye.”
“A book of incredible range and genius. From the iconography of the ‘Indian,’ sedimented in everyday objects from butter to missiles, to the ongoing economic war waged against First Nations peoples across North America, Thomas King is magisterial in this devastating and comprehensive dissection of history, contemporary politics and culture. His analysis is incisive, the seam of irony running through his prose, as affable as a filet knife.”
From the Hardcover edition.