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"The Inconvenient Indian" author to discuss work

Writer Thomas King explores treatment of North American Indians

  • One Book author to mingle with Northwestern community
  • Keynote conversation, 5 p.m., Oct. 14, Fisk Hall auditorium, Evanston
  • Visits law, medical schools at noon, Oct. 13, Rubloff 150, Chicago
  • All-campus read ‘turns conventional wisdom on its head’

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Award-winning author Thomas King will discuss the disastrous relationship between white people and North American Indians in one of the first major events of Northwestern University’s One Book One Northwestern reading program.

King’s provocative and unflinching book, “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America,” was selected for the 2015-16 all-campus read and is the cornerstone for related programming throughout the academic year.

Rather than delivering a traditional keynote lecture, King will address the past and present treatment of Native Americans with Loren Ghiglione, chair of the One Book steering committee, former dean and a professor in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

The free event, open to the public, takes place at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in auditorium of Fisk Hall, 1845 Sheridan Road, Evanston.

“I'm probably as interested in what the students are thinking as they are in me,” King said. “My job is to engage; not just to answer questions but to open new avenues for discussion, to keep it going and lively.”

King also will speak to Northwestern students, faculty and staff of the School of Law and Feinberg School of Medicine at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 13, Room 150 in the law school’s Arthur Rubloff Building, 375 East Chicago, Chicago.

“The Inconvenient Indian” is a darkly funny, no-holds-barred account of the turbulent relations between whites and Native Americans. It focuses on government efforts to remove and relocate Native peoples and white efforts to exterminate and assimilate them.

The book was given to all first-year and transfer students at Northwestern last month and is the centerpiece for a year’s worth of lectures, films and other programs related to issues raised in the book.

“It’s a history book that turns conventional wisdom on its head, but it is told with a storyteller’s humor and elegance,” said Ghiglione. “‘The Inconvenient Indian’ will help diminish the ignorance many of us have and focus on some important issues that don’t normally come to the fore in media.”

The themes of “The Inconvenient Indian” dovetail with Northwestern’s ongoing Native American inclusion efforts.

In response to a report from the John Evans Study committee, the University’s Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force recommended that the One Book program choose a reading on a Native American topic.

King, a novelist, screenwriter, playwright and a retired professor of English at the University of Guelph in Canada, said he began writing “An Inconvenient Indian” based on a lifelong series of conversations and arguments.

For King, territory is the root of the conflict. “It will always be land, until there isn't a square foot of land left in North America that is controlled by Native people,” he wrote.

Last year, King won British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for “The Inconvenient Indian.” His most recent book “The Back of the Turtle” won Canada’s Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction.

In addition to King’s events, dozens of other events related to the One Book selection are scheduled or under way. “November Morning – the Sand Creek Massacre,” an exhibit currently showing through Oct. 25 in the Dittmar Gallery at the Norris University Center, features work by artists who are descendants of the Cheyenne and Arapaho victims at Sand Creek. 

The John Evans Study Committee report, commissioned by Northwestern, addressed Evans's responsibility for the November 29, 1864, massacre in which an estimated 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children were slaughtered.

One Book One Northwestern, a community-wide reading program, is sponsored by the Office of the President. 

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