I was born in raised in Sarnia, Ontario. There is a number of First Nations reserves all around Sarnia including Aamjiwnaang, Chippewas and Bkejwanong. Just so you know my level of knowledge going into this book, I had to look up the spelling of all three of those and I wasn’t sure about the names of two of them. My knowledge of First Nations history, my own history and the political nature of colonialism is also very limited. The most experience I had with First Nations was going for $2.99 breakfast at the Chipican Hotel.
So as the #IdleNoMore movement took off and I started reading, listening and better understanding the issues I realized I fit the stereotype of the ignorant white man who just wanted to kind of keep to himself (or at least his own race) and ignore whatever my ancestors did. So I’m trying to overcome that and at the very least become more aware of the surrounding issues, especially the ones in my backyard. A big part of that for me at least is reading. So I started with a book called The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King. This book did two things for me. One, it made me realize that I don’t hate reading history anymore like I used to. I’m not sure if it was because he was hilarious and sarcastic throughout the entire book or if I am growing up. But either way, this book did it for me. Not only do I feel like he gave me a big chunk of Native history in North America but he did it in a way that wasn’t just listing facts. He also had a strong bias (since he is Native) which he didn’t hide and I just loved it.
The second thing this book did for me was put a face to a few hundred years of oppression in my own country and city. I’ve read some liberation theology and there is lots of talk of oppression and oppressor but a lot of it for me was very distant or had a hard time making the connection for my own life. This book made the connection for me without using the language at all. As weird as it may sound, it was a breath of fresh air to read a book which so blatantly stated over and over again that the history of my country has a lot of blood on it’s hands and a lot of what I call progress is seen as oppression to others. Normally, when the oppressor is telling their own story, you don’t hear much from the people who are giving up everything so that story can move forward. This book gives the other side to that story.
So this book was wonderful. I feel like Thomas King is in a unique position to be able to articulate from the position from an oppressed people group in the language of the oppressors that will hopefully give a voice to the other side of history which we don’t often here.