Saturday, July 8, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: July

Inspired by our recent discussion of Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, I've decided to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in my own, strange, book-ish way: by reading an indigenous author every month for the year and I thought you all might get a kick out of following along.  I'm purchasing these books to build my collection, so feel free to borrow one if anything along the way tickles your fancy!

So, here's my July title:  
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America 
by Thomas King
Image result for the inconvenient indian
  Book SummaryRich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, 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
My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this nonfiction title.  King has a great sense of humor and a keen eye for the bigger picture and I was surprised how often I found myself laughing out loud... and it was very refreshing to be able to laugh with the author in the midst of this difficult history.

I like how King dealt in a very straightforward way with many of the questions that people ask and comments that people make... like: why can't you just get over it?  And, you were conquered, move on!  And, quit your complaining and move off the reserve already!  And, why should you get all these freebies and handouts?

Using history, logic and personal experience, King exposes many of the misunderstandings of today and shows how racism is still very much alive in North America.

I like how he uses the phrase "Dead Indian" to describe the stereotypical movie image of a half-naked, child-like savage warrior who's brave but needs the guidance of a kindly white leader to succeed.  King shows how we've become attached to that romantic image of and how the very real, alive Indigenous people of today are a disappointment in that they don't fit that mold.  Society enjoys the old-time dress-up "Dead Indian" at a summer time Pow-wow, but doesn't know what to do with young, angry, white-collar Native people living and working in cities, for example.  We like the image of the fur-clad Inuit living in igloos and eating seal blubber (as long as no seals were harmed in the making of this movie!), but can't get our heads around a modern, northern hunting and trapping operation or the idea that Inuit people might want to work in industries other than hunting and trapping!

Overall, King does a terrific job of facing many of the modern issues facing Indigenous peoples by exposing the past and confronting the racism that is still alive today. An excellent tool for building context and a valuable overview for anyone with a deeper interest in the fate of Indigenous people in North American today.

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