BOOK FIEND: “Inconvenient Indian” is an eye opener – Park Rapids Enterprise

We live in perilous times, or at least that old woman is.

As I write this review, at least 130,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States. For context, in an average year the flu is estimated to kill around 30,000 people, although estimates vary up to 60,000. COVID-19 still killed twice as many people in six months as the flu kills none in a difficult year.

I heard yesterday that 90% of new cases could be eliminated if everyone wore a mask. A simple remedy, though few seem to follow it.

Far less straightforward to resolve is the systemic racism that has permeated our great nation since its inception.

As statues are torn down and Black Lives Matter protests dot the landscape of every city in America, many people find themselves either confused or angry. Our nephew, who lives in the Twin Cities, clarified the best answer for me when he said, after the Minneapolis riots broke out over the death of George Floyd, “Here’s what I’ve learned in the last few days: i have a lot to learn.

I agreed with him. So I read.

On the recommendation of my son, who is an attorney specializing in Indian law (this is how the United States defines policies in federal laws regarding Native Americans), I started reading “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America”. by Thomas King.

In “The Inconvenient Indian,” King writes about history in a way that enlightens but also manages to entertain, a combination I found irresistible. King has a dry wit that translates into a book that’s not only packed with historical facts and information, but its writing also flows with the ease of a compelling novel.

With both deft research and careful attention to what might seem like insignificant events, his intention is to shake us up a bit, and he succeeds.

His explanation of what becomes history is a good example: “When we imagine history, we imagine a large structure; a national chronicle, an organized and guarded record of agreed events and interpretations, a set of authenticity and truths welded together in a flexible yet conservative narrative that explains how we got here.

But no, not always, he gently instructs us. For example, the Indian massacres, like Alamo, Idaho. Alamo is a small town of about 200 people in southern Idaho. A plaque in the town reads: “Dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in a most horrific Indian massacre in 1861. Three hundred immigrants made their way west. Only five escaped. Erected by S&D Pioneers, 1938.”

The problem is that the massacre did not take place. Even after the massacre was debunked, King points out, the city was reluctant to remove the marker, defending the lie as part of the region’s culture and history.

Her book describes other “inconvenient” truths in the United States as well as Canada, covering North America in scope. I highly recommend it.

An openness to learning will help us bridge the gaps in understanding between us. King’s book is a great start to learning more about early Americans.