The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King

The Inconvenient IndianI’ve just finished Thomas King’s  The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaI can’t help of the opening narration by Spencer Tracy in How the West Was Won (1962) which speaks of how the land that became the United States was won, tamed and made. It touches on the Native culture of America, which I have learnt more about in this loose account of North American Aboriginals. I read it over the course of 3 months or so in my lunch-breaks at work. Every time without fail I came away shocked at the treatment of these people who once were free to live and worship as they please. Since the first Europeans landed, they have pushed, killed, lied and evicted the Native American.

My view of the Native was originally sympathetic, wanting to understand more about their depiction on film, who are only an obstacle for the whites who tore through. My last western saw a tribe being swooned by Randolph Scott in Santa Fe (1951) who took their leader for a ride on the Iron Horse who then concluded was trapped by the rails and was no real worry. I guess that was a consideration, besides the fact that the laying off thousands of miles of tracks brought hunters who killed off the buffalo which was the life blood for some tribes.

The Inconvenient Indian is a light look at how both Native Americans in both Canada and the U.S. have been treated politically. With hundreds of treaties signed (land grabs) which allowed the growth of the countries. Whilst in the last century each tribe has been fighting for recognition, and lost land.

There are a few successes, such as the casino’s which they still had to fight for. They are slowly emphasis on slowly gaining lost lands, like in Alaska. Buying land when they can, at the expense of the whites not able to use it more profitably. It seems that two very different cultures are living on the same land, two very different driving forces, one profit and the other being touch with the land.

If you want to take a first look at the Native Americans, this is a nice easy step into that world. The content is heavy at time, balanced out by King’s delivery, a mix of sarcasm and wit, he’s developed a thick skin to the things that have gone on for his people. I can’t leave this without thanking Marilyn over at Serendipity for making me aware of such a fantastic read that kept me both gripped, shocked and engaged.

Lastly I want to respond to this book, with so much going on, I need to put it to one side for a while, focus on Pericles and see what theme and ideas are there. There is so much there I would be crazy to ignore it.



2 responses

  1. TIm, there is so much to look at here, that it’s often hard to know what to think.
    It’s not really that nobody cares … there certainly have been large attempts and lots of money spent. It just seems that in many instances Native Consciousness is so different to ours that they are unable to adapt/change – and save themselves – they don’t seem to Think and Feel the same way we do. Don’t want to ??
    The plains Natives were particularly hard hit – as their nomadic lifestyle was dramatically altered. Some other bands that weren’t nomadic have done OK – and I believe in some instances seem to be doing well?
    BUT what gives? Many cultures have come to NA with far less advantage than the Natives – have done well and adapted very quickly.
    Only one thing seems certain: the Natives have to figure out how save themselves. It’s up to them. Sob stories and ‘poor me’ ain’t gonna get it done.

    April 18, 2014 at 1:13 am

    • It’s by no means a simple subject as we both know. My eyes are more open to their position, theres always two sides to every story. Plus not all cultures get along so a long term solution might be a long way off for everyone in North America to live happily together. This book is definitely an conversation starter to say the least.

      April 18, 2014 at 9:40 am

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