Harry Reads: The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America

theinconvientidianOk, this week I began reading The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America by Thomas King. As of writing this, I have yet to finish the book, so this will probably be part one of two (or more) writings.

 

The first thing to know about the book is that, while covering a lot of historical ground, the book is not a history of native people in North America for a reason. Kings says in the prologue that if he were to write a history, he would “be obliged to pay attention to the demands of scholarship and work within an organized and clearly delineated chronology”, and while that might sound like a copout, I find that removing the need for a chronology helps with the structure more. You see, chapters in this book aren’t written events-first, they are written topic-first. What I like about this is mainly the chapter names. For instance, the prologue is titled warm toast and porcupines, referring to how he finds writing fiction “is buttering warm toast” and how writing a history “ is herding porcupines with your elbows.” All of the chapters have similarly mystifying titles that remain so until you actually read the chapter and think about what it means. A smart way to get people to think about what they just read.

 

The book is written very captivatingly. Richard Wagamese, writing for the Globe and Mail, compared him to Mark Twain, and I have to agree. History, like every subject gains, or loses, a lot of its potency depending on who’s teaching, and Thomas King really is great. He’s witty, interesting and smart, and his anecdotes throughout the book truly make it worth reading. He sums up what I just finished writing quite beautifully with “Mind you, there is a great in The Inconvenient Indian that is history. I’m just not the historian you had in mind.”

 

Now, I’ve left probably the most important bit for last, which is the subject matter of the book. Put simply, it’s in the title. Specifically, the bottom line. However, the subject matter is anything but simple. This book delves hard into the history of native people. The first historical event that he brought up was so outrageous that I had to check it out.

 

The Almo massacre is set in Almo, a town you probably have never heard of, as the first time I tried searching for it, Google would just autocorrect me to the Alamo. It’s not famous for anything and seems to be one of the many farming communities that never grew into anything else. As far as I can tell, the only thing the town is famous for is the massacre. And the massacre is famous for good reason. According to the plaque erected in Almo for the pioneers, in 1920, 300 settlers were  headed east, when they came across only 5 survived. If so, that would make it the second largest massacre ever.  

 

One teensy problem, though. The Almo massacre never happened.

 

You might think “Oh, maybe there was a smaller incident, and it was blown out of proportion.” And I was thinking the same thing at the time, but no! The Almo massacre is straight fiction that was somehow regarded as fact. It wasn’t until 1993, when the Idaho Yesterdays, an academic journal, finally set the record straight. The main point disregarding the Almo massacre is that news of Indian attacks was highly publicized, and nothing can be found on the Almo massacre until far later. Strange considering that it, again would have been the second largest massacre ever.

 

Now, I’d love to send you to the original piece in the Idaho Yesterdays, and while it looks like the paper was digitized at some point, the link is no longer maintained and I don’t have the time and the resources to get to a proper university library to validate something for a blog post. Sigh, where’s open education when you need it? The best i can do is send you a few sites that do little but prove I haven’t been making this up. Sorry about that.
I’d say that’s enough to conclude my first blog post on this book. My early impressions have been very good, and I look forward to continuing reading. Stay tuned for part two!

Author: lambchopone

I'm​ many things. Mainly a gamer.

4 thoughts on “Harry Reads: The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America”

    1. Hey Mom,

      Wow, that photo is stunning. We should go through that area together so point in the future 🙂

      Treaties! Definitely something unheard of in my education thus far. Do you have any suggestions of where to start?

      Like

  1. Hi Harry,

    I didn’t stop and take a picture but I did cross “Medicine River” in Alberta on this latest drive. It’s the title of Thomas King’s first novel, which I love, love (and will see if I can track down in the library for you- used to be on my bookshelf of course, pre-fire, with all the others I imagined sharing with you some day). I was passing through Treaty 6 territory- sky all around and a perspective on the land so far I could see the earth curve. https://www.flickr.com/photos/keiramc/shares/065G18

    That is something that I’m looking forward to learning more about with you this year- what it means to be “treaty people”. I sure never heard that about being a Treaty person in school or what my responsibilities as a settler might be in the treaties our ancestors signed. When we are in B.C. (so-called), we are on unceded land- there never were treaties signed with Indigenous people. But here in Ontario where we’ll be spending some time this fall, it’s a different story.

    I’m wondering what your thoughts and feelings are as you think about this fake massacre?

    I look forward to your next post and our conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

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