The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

by Thomas King
Genres: History, Nonfiction
Pages: 266
Format: Hardcover Source: Library
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The author takes pains to point out that this is not going to be a traditional history.  It is a series of essays about Indian (his preferred term) and White relations in the U.S. and Canada.

It is pretty depressing.  He lightens it up some but it is more along the lines of laughing so you don’t cry.

There are chapters on cultural appropriation by Whites.  Hear the stories of Indian actors who didn’t look Indian enough to get Indian roles and White actors who made a career of playing Indians.

Learn about the history of Indian boarding schools designed to make children lose touch with their culture.  So many children died in these institutions and no one in authority cared.

He has chapters on government programs designed to steal land on the excuse that the Indians weren’t using it correctly.  In case you think this is all in the past, he talks about relations since 1985.

One example that got my attention was the story of the Kinzua Dam.  I grew up near there but didn’t know anything about it.  When the dam was built it flooded 10,000 acres of the Seneca reservation.  The Seneca were never told that the dam was going to happen.  (The image above is Kinzua Lake.)

I looked up Kinzua online to find out more and found this statement on Wikipedia.

“In addition, the Seneca lost a 1964 appeal over the related relocation of a four-lane highway through the remaining portion of the reservation.[8] This caused them to lose more land to the interstate (but, in turn, the reservation was able to reclaim the land around the old highway the interstate had replaced; that land sits abandoned and unused as of 2014).

Oh, look, Indians still aren’t using the land correctly in the opinion of this Wikipedia writer.

Don’t worry though. In exchange for submerging 10,000 acres and several towns the Seneca were given 305 acres to relocate the towns.  That’s good math.

This is a difficult and uncomfortable book to read but I think it is a necessary one.