The Next Chapter

Joe Oliva on why every Canadian should read The Inconvenient Indian

The Toronto singer explains why Thomas King's unconventional history is opening his eyes to the story of Indigenous people in Canada.
Joe Oliva shares the book he's got on his bedside table. (

Joe Oliva is the bass vocalist for the Toronto-based a cappella group Eh440. At the moment, he's reading The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, which he says is quite the departure from what he learned in history class.

The Inconvenient Indian is a nonfiction book detailing some of the less emphasized portions of history between Native and non-Native relations from the time that the English, Spanish and French came to North America. It details the atrocities committed in the residential school system, treaty violations, the theft of resources and racism. 

What I found interesting about Thomas King's approach was that he's not a historian. He's mostly a fiction writer and he writes the book in an interesting narrative where you feel like you're just sitting down having a cup of coffee with him and he's telling you stories that were incomplete from my history lessons as a child.

Eh440 also toured in Nunavut, where we got a chance to meet a lot of people and hear their stories. I was fascinated by it from the beginning, because we don't quite get the full picture where I grew up in London, Ontario. This is a topic that we hear about in the news; we hear about things that happened hundreds of years ago and the solutions that are being crafted today. But we don't get it from a first person perspective.

Joe Oliva's comments have been edited and condensed.