De-colonizing North America
Book Review

Caldwell, Robert

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/09/2014
Year Published:  2014  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20816

A book review of King's "The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America," and Dunbar-Ortiz's "An Indigenous People's History of the United States."



Two new books, Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, offer American Indian perspectives on the history of North America.

Award-winning novelist King boldly ignores the colonizers' boundaries that he traverses in daily life to take on both Canada and the United States, offering compelling conversations and vignettes that fuse to form an alternative, story-based account of the past. Historian Dunbar-Ortiz takes a different approach, an historical synthesis that challenges mainstream history of the United States head-on, providing ruthless critique and call for a total re-conceptualization of U.S. history.

The Inconvenient Indian in many ways follows an indigenous oral tradition narrative. The book details historical relations between white culture and indigenous peoples in North America. King, who was born in the United States but lives in Canada, notes that many tribes' territories spanned the present-day border. He observes differences in law and tradition between the two countries, but is not limited by the geographical boundaries.

This book, which is virtually unknown in the United States outside of Native American Studies, has been a Canadian bestseller. In early 2014, it won the prestigious National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the RBC Taylor Prize.

King's stories offer a circular rather than linear form of history; the book is not chronological in sequence. It is about the past (and present) but doesn't attempt to be a history book. King telescopes between details and generalities with more attention to engaging the reader than offering empirical precision. The book has no footnotes and doesn't pretend to be authoritative or exhaustive. The author is happy to offer anecdotes from his personal experience with a huge dose of humor.