March 21, 2022
By Emilie Derkson-Poirier, APTN Communications Assistant
APTN is proud to be bringing Inconvenient Indian, a film from the National Film Board of Canada and 90th Parallel Productions, to audiences across Canada on April 8, 2022. Inconvenient Indian is adapted from Thomas King’s non-fiction book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. His book received widespread critical acclaim, winning both the RBC Taylor Prize and the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. The film adaptation weaves literature, music and archival footage into a poetic masterpiece that highlights Thomas King’s brilliant words as well as the knowledge and experiences of many other Indigenous creators whose work intentionally disrupts colonial narratives. It is narrated by King himself and features a vibrant cast, including Gail Maurice, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Kent Monkman, Christi Belcourt and more.
Far from a conventional documentary, Inconvenient Indian uses voice-overs and powerful imagery to demonstrate how tenacious the contemporary voices of Indigenous resistance are and how damaging white interpretations of history can be. We, as the audience, see beautiful montages of Indigenous song, dance and visual art that subvert historical falsehoods. Likewise, we hear stories that present a crucial alternative to the ones we’ve so often been told. Throughout the film, King tells the story of Coyote and the ducks (which also figures prominently in his book) as a metaphor for what has been taken from Indigenous Peoples.
The featured artists also share their own accounts. We are invited into their stories and to bear witness to their truths. Painter Kent Monkman describes how his work prompts people to reflect on what the last 150 years have meant for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril shares her experience reclaiming traditional Inuit tattoos. Hunter Steven Lonsdale opens up about how his community has been impacted by a rapid shift in hunting and harvesting practices. Artist and author Christi Belcourt talks about the importance of language for passing on Indigenous belief systems about the land. Multimedia artist Skawennati uses the digital realm to explore Indigenous futures and what it means to give thanks to the water and land in an online environment. Land is the connective tissue that ties each of these stories together, and, as Thomas King says, “The issue has always been land. It will always be land.”
King, an author of Cherokee and Greek descent, has published over 20 works since he began his writing career in the 80s, including novels, children’s books, short story collections and television/radio scripts. In the late 90s, he wrote and starred as himself in the CBC satire radio show, The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour, which offered political commentary and mocked white perceptions of Indigenous Peoples. King was the first Indigenous person to deliver the prestigious Massey Lectures in 2003 and shortly afterwards in 2004, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to the preservation of Indigenous culture. In 2007, he went on to write and direct his first short film, I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind, which combined imagery with spoken word to challenge harmful stereotypes. King’s most recent novel, Sufferance, follows a man named Jeremiah Camp as he flees the corporate world and hides out in a former residential school. When asked in a CBC Books interview about what inspires King to continue writing, he responded, “Writing is just something I do. It’s who I am. It’s not a job. It’s not even a vocation. It’s just what I do.”
King and the other Indigenous creators featured in Inconvenient Indian remind us that “once a story is told, it cannot be called back” and that we must therefore be careful with the stories we choose to tell. These artists, activists and land protectors are reshaping the narrative around Indigenous Peoples and paving the way for a new generation of community leaders who feel empowered to continue this important work. Positive Indigenous representation is essential on the path towards reconciliation.
As part of this path forward, Inconvenient Indian is making its world broadcast premiere on Friday, April 8, 2022 at 9 p.m. across all APTN channels. The film will also be available for streaming on APTN lumi the following day.
Visit APTN’s show page or the NFB’s film page on Inconvenient Indian to learn more!