The Inconvenient Indian is both a history and a hilarious story about relationships between whites and Aboriginal peoples across North America.
It is also a tragedy, which is why, according to author Thomas King, he decided to present it with humor. He has done this so well that he won the RBC Taylor Prize for 2013.
Despite the humor, he arrives at a distressing conclusion: the Canadian government is implementing legislation and policies now that will destroy what remains of First Nations lands and culture, and the United States will probably be inspired by the Canadian example to do the same.
Most readers will no doubt be surprised by the facts when they see them collected into a single paragraph of broken promises or massacres of Indian women and children.
And then King, who is of aboriginal descent, will have them laughing.
They will be introduced to the “Dead Indian,” the “Live Indian,” and the “Legal Indian.”
Too many non-aboriginal see only Dead Indians, the stereotype of the noble savage. Sorry, folks, but those Indians are, in fact, Dead Indians.
Do you know any Live Indians? King knows that few whites do know a Live Indian.
So what’s a Legal Indian? One who has treaty rights. Except there are some who have rights, but they’re not Legal Indians. And there are Legal Indians as defined by tribes, or by the U.S. government, or by the Canadian government, or by treaties, and they are not one and the same. Not at all.
There are a lot of inconvenient truths packaged into The Inconvenient Indian. And the electronic version appends the transcript of a wonderful interview by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Shelagh Rogers. (Doubleday Canada)