“[A]ny discussion of Indians in North America is likely to conjure up a certain amount of rage,” writes King (A Short History of Indians in Canada, 2013, etc.) in this quirky history—but also “moments of irony and humour.”
Taking a deep historical look at both Canada and the United States, the author irreverently recounts the wonderful treaties that were made and frequently broken. As William Tecumseh Sherman said, “treaties were never made to be kept, but to serve a present purpose, to settling a present difficulty in the easiest manner possible…and then to be disregarded as soon as this purpose was tainted.” Though the story is hardly new, many readers likely don’t know much about Canadian Indians’ difficulties with the English and French. In fact, they were treated as badly as the natives of the Lower 48. The author’s wit and storytelling talent make the book easy to read; more importantly, his humor may keep readers from wanting to scream at the injustices. In his exploration, King roughly categorizes Indians as “dead Indians,” “legal Indians” and “live Indians.” Dead Indians are the stereotypical noble savages clad in buckskin and feathers. Live Indians are literally live and not living up to the dead Indian cliché; legal Indians are those people that the government(s) has declared are live Indians. The author has plenty to say about the white man’s treatment of the land, with environmental issues like the Alberta Tar Sands and the Keystone Pipeline at the top of his how-dumb-can-you-be list. If there are anger and sarcasm in the tales of abuse and sequestered Indian lands, you can’t really blame him.
King’s wife, reading over his shoulder, suggested he had way too many lists. She’s right, but this is still a solid book and a good look at what can be done in the future of Indian-white relations.