Like many readers, I know Thomas King best as a novelist, but this foray into non-fiction was undoubtedly a success as well as an award-winner. King takes on the huge story of aboriginal people in North America and how they have related to Europeans since the arrival of white folks in the seventeenth century, though King’s focus is mainly on the last hundred and fifty years or so. This book makes no claim to be an exhaustive or scholarly history; King focuses on the stories and events that are of interest to him and will best inform a mostly-white readership about the scale of injustice that has been done to North American Indians (his choice of terminology, though some people prefer “First Nations” or “aboriginal people”).
The book is immensely readable and interesting, and while I might have been more intrigued by the chapter on how native people have been represented in Hollywood than by a chapter on land claims treaties, even the material I knew little about was presented in a way that was easy to understand. King’s a witty writer, and there’s often humour in his tone here, but it’s always a dark humour, the kind of humour best used to drive home anger. There’s no doubt King is angry about the treatment of Indians in both the US and Canada, and any reader, aboriginal or white, who reads this book should come away a little angry too.