The Inconvenient Indian
A Curious Account of Native People in North America
Publication Year: 2013
In The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada–U.S. border, King debunks fabricated stories of Indian savagery and White heroism, takes an oblique look at Indians (and cowboys) in film and popular culture, wrestles with the history of Native American resistance and his own experiences as a Native rights activist, and articulates a profound, revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
Suffused with wit, anger, perception, and wisdom, The Inconvenient Indian is at once an engaging chronicle and a devastating subversion of history, insightfully distilling what it means to be “Indian” in North America. It is a critical and personal meditation that sees Native American history not as a straight line but rather as a circle in which the same absurd, tragic dynamics are played out over and over again. At the heart of the dysfunctional relationship between Indians and Whites, King writes, is land: “The issue has always been land.” With that insight, the history inflicted on the indigenous peoples of North America—broken treaties, forced removals, genocidal violence, and racist stereotypes—sharpens into focus. Both timeless and timely, The Inconvenient Indian ultimately rejects the pessimism and cynicism with which Natives and Whites regard one another to chart a new and just way forward for Indians and non-Indians alike.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Other Works by the Author, Copyright, Dedication
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PROLOGUE WARM TOAST AND PORCUPINES
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About fifteen years back, a bunch of us got together to form a drum group. John Samosi, one of our lead singers, suggested we call ourselves “The Pesky Redskins.” Since we couldn’t sing all that well, John argued, we needed a name that would make people smile and encourage them to overlook our musical deficiencies....
1 FORGET COLUMBUS
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When I announced to my family that I was going to write a book about Indians in North America, Helen said, “Just don’t start with Columbus.” She always gives me good advice. And I always give it my full consideration....
2 THE END OF THE TRAIL
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When my brother and I were kids, we would dress up and play cowboys and Indians with the rest of the kids. I have a photograph of Chris and me in our leather vests, leather chaps, and cowboy hats, looking laconic and tough as cowboys looked....
3 TOO HEAVY TO LIFT
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Indians come in all sorts of social and historical configurations. North American popular culture is littered with savage, noble, and dying Indians, while in real life we have Dead Indians, Live Indians, and Legal Indians....
4 ONE NAME TO RULE THEM ALL
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If North America doesn’t like Live Indians and it doesn’t like Legal Indians, why doesn’t the military-political-corporate complex just kill us off? I know this question sounds melodramatic and absurd, but I’ve been to rallies, marches, and protests where some clever wit has shouted out from the crowd, “We...
5 WE ARE SORRY
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Whenever someone says “Plan B,” I’m instantly reminded
of that wondrously horrid movie that Ed Wood wrote and
directed back in 1956.
Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The film was shot in just five days and cost less than $20,000 to make, much of the capital coming from a group of Baptist...
6 LIKE COWBOYS AND INDIANS
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In Canada, there was a federal election that year, and the Conservatives under John A. Macdonald retained power. Some of Macdonald’s support surely came from his decision, two years earlier, to hang the Métis leader Louis Riel, though he probably lost votes in Quebec for this unnecessary act of hubris. The numbered...
7 FORGET ABOUT IT
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This is a great sentiment. I like it. Maybe it is time for Native
people—such as me—to stop complaining about the past. Better
yet, maybe it’s time to get rid of the past altogether.
How about 1985?
That was the year my second child was born. Let’s draw a line with that year. I’ll gather up all of North American Indian history...
8 WHAT INDIANS WANT
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What a good idea. But there’s a problem. If Native people are
to have a future that is of our own making, such a future will be
predicated, in large part, on sovereignty.
Sovereignty is one of those topics about which everyone has an opinion, and each time the subject is brought up at a gathering or...
9 AS LONG AS THE GRASS IS GREEN
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Great question. The problem is, it’s the wrong question to ask. While there are certainly Indians in North America, the Indians of this particular question don’t exist. The Indians of this question are “the Indian” that Canada and the United States have created for themselves. And as long as the question is asked in ...
10 HAPPY EVER AFTER
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Since The Inconvenient Indian is set in North America, and since North Americans love happy-ever-after endings, I thought I’d try to close the book on an optimistic note. So, I asked Native friends who keep abreast of current affairs if they’d noticed any encouraging signs that Native–White relations were moving in positive ...
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The Inconvenient Indian has been a work-in-progress for most of my adult life. Its origin dates back to at least the early 1970s, when I worked at the University of Utah’s American West Center where Floyd O’Neil rode herd on a motley crew of graduate reprobates that included myself as well as Greg Thompson, Laura Bayer, John...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013