Ethnicity

THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN by THOMAS KING

THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN – A Curious Account of Native People in North America

By Thomas King

University of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2013

272 Pages

Before starting it, I was a bit dubious about the book. The title seemed just a bit … I don’t know. Off-center? I wasn’t sure if I was about to read history, anecdotes, opinion, humor or what.

It turned out to be all of the above and more. This is an entertaining book — humorous, elegantly written and witty. It’s also serious, but the seriousness is somewhat cloaked by its style. Unlike so many books written by oppressed minorities that aim — almost exclusively — to make one feel guilty for not being one of the oppressed, this book helps you help see the world through the eyes of Native Americans. What we see is beauty, horror and hilarity … a mad world in which you can’t trust anyone and you have to make your own rules because that’s the only way to survive.

We have slaughtered our Native Americans. Hated them, admired, adulated, tortured, enslaved, jailed and utterly misunderstood them since our first encounters.

The single thing we non-Natives have never done is accept the Native American claim to this country as more legitimate than ours. At the core of the relationship between Native peoples and the white “settlers” was and will always be land. It was theirs. We wanted it. We took it. They objected. We killed them. And we kept the land and tried improve our position by slander and slaughter.

These days, feelings towards Native American runs the gamut from awe, to bigotry and loathing. Despite the passing of centuries, there is little understanding. That the Native community is less than eager to let outsiders into their world should surprise no one. Their experience with us has not been reassuring. To quote Calvera from The Magnificent Seven: “Generosity. That was our first mistake.”

For anyone interested in discovering the meaning of cognitive dissonance, growing up Native in today’s America is a good start. Natives are by no means the only minority to have to hold completely incompatible world views simultaneously, but Natives have a legitimate claim to first place for the most cock-eyed and complex relationship with the larger society in which they must live.

This isn’t exactly history. It isn’t exactly not. It’s stories, history, opinions and anecdotes presented in a non-linear, almost conversational style. It is easy to read, lively and not at all pretentious. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but probably will. Logic would dictate that our Native population regard us with at the very least, skepticism and possibly deep-rooted hostility.

This isn’t a deep analysis of the history of this relationship, though for some I suppose it would be revelatory. I would call it “Native American History Lite.” It is a good starting place for those who don’t know anything — or know a lot of things, all of which are wrong.

About the author:

Thomas King is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, and photographer. His many books include the novels Medicine River; Green Grass, Running Water; Truth and Bright Water; two short story collections, One Good Story, That One (Minnesota, 2013) and A Short History of Indians in Canada (Minnesota, 2013); nonfiction, The Truth About Stories (Minnesota, 2005); and the children’s books A Coyote Columbus Story, Coyote Sings to the Moon, Coyote’s New Suit, and A Coyote Solstice Tale. King edited the literary anthology All My Relations and wrote and starred in the popular CBC radio series, The Dead Dog Café. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western American Literary Association (2004) and an Aboriginal Achievement Award (2003), and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004. He has taught Native literature and history and creative writing at the University of Lethbridge, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Guelph and is now retired and lives in Guelph, Ontario.

The Inconvenient Indian is available in Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback. 

Worthwhile in any format.

A CURIOUS ACCOUNT OF NATIVE PEOPLES IN NORTH AMERICA

THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN – A Curious Account of Native People in North America

By Thomas King

University of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2013

272 Pages

Before starting it, I was a bit dubious about the book. The title seemed just a bit … I don’t know. Off-center? I wasn’t sure if I was about to read history, anecdotes, opinion, humor or what.

It turned out to be all of the above and more. This is an entertaining book — humorous, elegantly written and witty. It’s also serious, but the seriousness is somewhat cloaked by its style. Unlike so many books written by oppressed minorities that aim — almost exclusively — to make one feel guilty for not being one of the oppressed, this book helps you help see the world through the eyes of Native Americans. What we see is beauty, horror and hilarity … a mad world in which you can’t trust anyone and you have to make your own rules because that’s the only way to survive.

We have slaughtered our Native Americans. Hated them, admired, adulated, tortured, enslaved, jailed and utterly misunderstood them since our first encounters.

The single thing we non-Natives have never done is accept the Native American claim to this country as more legitimate than ours. At the core of the relationship between Native peoples and the white “settlers” was and will always be land. It was theirs. We wanted it. We took it. They objected. We killed them. And we kept the land and tried improve our position by slander and slaughter.

These days, feelings towards Native American runs the gamut from awe, to bigotry and loathing. Despite the passing of centuries, there is little understanding. That the Native community is less than eager to let outsiders into their world should surprise no one. Their experience with us has not been reassuring. To quote Calvera from The Magnificent Seven: “Generosity. That was our first mistake.”

For anyone interested in discovering the meaning of cognitive dissonance, growing up Native in today’s America is a good start. Natives are by no means the only minority to have to hold completely incompatible world views simultaneously, but Natives have a legitimate claim to first place for the most cock-eyed and complex relationship with the larger society in which they must live.

This isn’t exactly history. It isn’t exactly not. It’s stories, history, opinions and anecdotes presented in a non-linear, almost conversational style. It is easy to read, lively and not at all pretentious. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but probably will. Logic would dictate that our Native population regard us with at the very least, skepticism and possibly deep-rooted hostility.

This isn’t a deep analysis of the history of this relationship, though for some I suppose it would be revelatory. I would call it “Native American History Lite.” It is a good starting place for those who don’t know anything — or know a lot of things, all of which are wrong.

About the author:

Thomas King is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, and photographer. His many books include the novels Medicine River; Green Grass, Running Water; Truth and Bright Water; two short story collections, One Good Story, That One (Minnesota, 2013) and A Short History of Indians in Canada (Minnesota, 2013); nonfiction, The Truth About Stories (Minnesota, 2005); and the children’s books A Coyote Columbus Story, Coyote Sings to the Moon, Coyote’s New Suit, and A Coyote Solstice Tale. King edited the literary anthology All My Relations and wrote and starred in the popular CBC radio series, The Dead Dog Café. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western American Literary Association (2004) and an Aboriginal Achievement Award (2003), and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004. He has taught Native literature and history and creative writing at the University of Lethbridge, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Guelph and is now retired and lives in Guelph, Ontario.

The Inconvenient Indian is available in Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback and worthwhile in any format.

UNRAISING A CONSCIOUSNESS

Having had ones consciousness raised, it’s impossible to unraise it. I suppose that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s inconvenient.

I started reading history when I was very young, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It wasn’t long before I realized that what we were told in school had little to do with real history. I was astonished at how much history is completely omitted from school curricula. I understand that elementary school history is not real history, but even so, it began to nag at me, a mental itch I could not scratch. The more I read, the more it bothered me.

By  proclivity and coincidence, I’ve lived an integrated life. My husband is West Indian, my best friend is Native American and I’ve been subject to some serious consciousness-raising. I had to call her this evening and complain. She has ruined westerns for me. I can’t watch them any more without thinking about massacres. I need to remind myself that my people were not even in this country yet. They were still back in Russia dodging the Czar’s thugs.

Which brought me back to my original problem. I can’t read about savage Indians slaughtering the brave settlers without saying “Hey, wait a minute … That’s not right!” I truly can’t help it.

Nor can I watch “Gone With the Wind” and not know behind the big white mansion were slave quarters. I can’t watch our cavalry riding out to kill Indians without remembering the broken treaties, the systematic, state-sponsored annihilation of entire tribes down to the last child. It takes a lot of the fun out of watching those romantic old movies and the worst part is that I also love those movies. I would like to turn off my conscience for the duration of the film, but I can’t.

Cherrie refuses to apologize. She merely says “My job here is done.” We laugh.

So I apologize for sounding overly sincere. I don’t like sounding moralistic, but I can’t turn away. I wish I could, at least for the duration of a movie. I understand the history of the world is one civilization conquering another and taking its land for their own. So it has always been.

Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass. This was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria that took place from November 9th through 10th, 1938. It was carried out by Nazi paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed.

More than 90 Jews were directly killed in the attacks. Another 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps, so the real death toll is hard to calculate. Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone). More than 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed.

English: Jews are being forced to walk with th...

Jews forced to walk with the star of David during the Kristallnacht in Nazi-Germany in the night of 9-10 november 1938 (Photo: Wikipedia)

No event in the history of German Jews from 1933 to 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening. The accounts from foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world — but not enough to get them to do anything about it. The New York Times wrote: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”

It didn’t inspire the U.S. or any other country to take in the desperate Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis. Of the many horrors that occurred during these years, I find this one especially hard to forgive. It is the epitome of the saying commonly attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The world did nothing. Good men and women tsk-tsked and cried crocodile tears as the slaughter continued.

I think my consciousness is about as raised as I can stand for the moment. How’s yours doing?

Awakenings: Are we there yet?

Reblogged from AWAKENINGS 

I love western movies. I love the romance of the old west, the line of wagons rolling along in the shadow of the mountains, bravely heading to the achievement of  the nation’s manifest destiny. But I can’t forget that in building this country, we destroyed other nations, slaughtered thousands of men, women and children in a systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of every Native tribe we encountered — our own American Holocaust. That the tides of history have ever been thus is undeniable, but it doesn’t make it less horrendous. So with the romance, there will always be an underlying bitter knowledge. We built our land on the blood and bones of those who were here long before us. 

– Marilyn Armstrong

On the trail again . . .

Do you suppose the children of the early pioneers questioned along the way “Are we there yet?” Every five minutes a repeat of the refrain, “Are we there yet?” An ever nagging, whiny “Are we there yet?”,  “Are we there yet?”,

“Are we there yet?”

Needless to say, the mode of travel was not by air-conditioned automobile, camper or RV. Instead, it was by crude wagon, horseback or on foot. A grueling 2000-mile journey across western plains and mountainous trails would last five months. Conditions were harsh plagued with accidents, illness, raging river crossings, mud, dust, monotony, and often terror. In spite of unimaginable, unforeseen circumstances, they trekked onward … onward toward a dream, hope of better times in a land to the west.

The shadow of fear loomed endlessly regarding the possibility of encountering native Indians who had been reported as being savages. Can you imagine traveling into a territory where it was known for men to be killed and scalped while women were taken prisoner? That, of course, would indicate the women witnessed the brutal slaying of their husbands. While many of the women were eventually saved, it was reported they went insane and lived only a short time after being rescued from captivity. They had nothing left, their husbands were dead, more than likely the children too, wagons were burned and all possessions taken from them. They were stripped of everything in life they had ever known or owned.

Had it not been for the determination and perseverance of these early pioneers the west would not have been won. Winning, however, came at a high price for both the white man and the Native American Indians who, by the way, were not savages. But, that is another story. . .

So, back to our initial question: “Are we there yet?” I do fear had one asked that question he or she would not have been brave enough or in the condition to ask it again! What do you think?

Long dresses, trousers with jackets, hot sultry weather, & tumbleweed were commonalities along the trail.

Hardy Pioneers

After taming the eastern seaboard, crossing the Western Frontier
proved to be just as treacherous as crossing the Atlantic.
This, however, did not impede the push westward
as hope, faith, and courage continued to prevail.
By crude wagon they traveled
With limited communications
Across the Mississippi
Westward to the Appalachians
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Walking beside the wagons
Eased the bumpy trails
But not the loudly clanging
Utensils and pails
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Fetching water from a stream
Collecting dried buffalo chips
Shaking out dusty blankets
Were never regarded as quips
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Days were long and grueling
Under the sweltering sun
Dusk welcomed time to rest
Once chores were finally done
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Gathering around the campfire
With smiles and laughter perchance
Lessened the pains of their labors
As they enjoyed song and dance
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
With new land in sight
After months on the trail
Labors did not end
For bodies thin and frail
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Shelters needed building
Fields hoed then plowed
Candles dipped for lighting
To unveil the shroud
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Without modern tools
Hands aching to the bone
Time for rejoicing
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
In a place to call home
Sod shanties, crude cabins
Canvas stretched across dirt floors
Muslin on the ceilings
Kept grime from falling indoors
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif

But, in spite of it all
Smiles of joy would beam
It was a place called home
A part of their dream

File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif

©2013 Awakenings
Sharla Lee Shults

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

If you think a long car trip with the family can be stressful, try to imagine a trans-continental wagon train … with the kids.  Would anyone arrive at their far off destination with their sanity intact? Perhaps the journey accounts for the high level of guns and violence in the Old West. I bet it was that endless trip by covered wagon with the whole family, a level of togetherness that is almost incomprehensible.

File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif

I’d love to be able to retell this from the point of view of the Native Americans whose homelands were being invaded by people who had no respect for their customs, nor the slightest willingness to learn anything about the culture they despised. Our pioneers were so steeped in the righteousness of their cause, the rightness of their greed for the land that was not theirs, they could not even consider the possibility that there was another side to the story. What would they have done had positions been reversed? Would they have been thought savages for protecting their land, families, and homes?

That most of the pioneers were utterly ignorant is probably the best thing you can say about them. Those lands were not uninhabited. They were not empty, waiting for white people to come and civilize them. The rightful owners were not savagely attacking our brave adventurers: they were attempting to halt an invasion.

There were people living there, people with an ancient culture, homes, and families. They too had children, wives, hopes and dreams. In building this nation, we destroyed not one, but many nations.

See on awakenings2012.blogspot.com

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