I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind

A video exploration offering insight as to how First Nations people today are changing old ideas and empowering themselves in the greater community.

Produced with a grant awarded by bravoFACT (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent), a division of Bell Media Inc.

Creative team

Director/writer: Thomas King
Producer: Laura J. Milliken

Director’s statement

Thomas King says:

I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind challenges the stereotypical portrayal First Nations peoples in the media. This spoken word short offers an insight of how First Nations people today are changing old ideas and empowering themselves in the greater community.

The actors, in business suits, jeans, and typical urban attire are juxtaposed against the loincloth-wearing, tomahawk wielding Natives of yesterday’s spaghetti westerns.

Through the use of stock footage, language, and common artifacts like a cigar store Indian, the viewer is encouraged to examine the profound role that these one-dimensional media representations have played in shaping their perspectives of an entire group of people. The man living next door, the woman working in the next cubicle, or the stoic wood carving in front of the cigar store – which Indian did you have in mind?

About Thomas King


Thomas was born in Sacramento, CA in 1943. He is of Cherokee, German and Greek descent. King was raised in California, later becoming a photojournalist in Australia.

In 1986, he completed his Ph.D. in English and American studies at the University of Utah. He has taught Native Studies at the University of California, the University of Lethbridge, and at the University of Minnesota, where he was also Chair of American Indian Studies. King is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph, west of Toronto.

King published his first novel Medicine River in 1989. It marked him as an important voice in Canadian literature. His use of humor, well-crafted dialogue (influenced by his interest in traditional oral literature), and an honest portrayal of day-to-day life of Natives marked the book as an important work of fiction. In 1990, King tried to radically redefine how theorists view Native literature.

In the article Godzilla vs. Postcolonial, King challenges the view that all Native literature is a reaction to colonialism, rather than an extension of longer Native tradition. The term postcolonial serves, in King’s opinion, to reinforce the legacy of colonization.

In 1992, King published the collection of short stories One Good Story, That One. Again mixing humor, traditional Native mythology and contemporary issues, King creates a collection of memorable stories. One such story that plays with the idea of Christopher Columbus discovering America, A Coyote Columbus Story, was transformed into a children’s book that was ultimately nominated for a Governor General’s Award.

He was also nominated for a GG Award in 1993 for his second novel, Green Grass, Running Water. Maintaining the same theme and style of his previous works and enhancing them, King combines the lives of a number of Native characters making their way back to their reserve with a continual retelling of the Creation myth. Truth and Bright Water was published in 1999 and focuses more on the oral tradition of the Natives in its form and style.

Thomas King also wrote a series of comic radio scripts for the CBC during the 1990s, The Dead Dog Cafe. He has edited a number of anthologies on Native writers. The Dead Dog Café was also resurrected in 2006 and 13 episodes are currently in production for CBC Radio.

King was chosen to deliver the 2003 Massey Lectures, entitled The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. King was the first Aboriginal Massey Lecturer. In the series, King examined the Native experience in oral stories, literature, history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest in order to make sense of North America’s relationship with its Aboriginal peoples.

How to purchase this film

You can do this through the following website:

NSI News

If you liked this film and want to receive updates about new films in the NSI Online Short Film Festival, our courses and alumni, subscribe to our weekly email blast sent every Tuesday.


  1. Beth

    “Imagined what would’ve happened if we had lead and they had followed.”

  2. Teresa

    This would be great to show to students. I hope that I will be able to find it and access it for my class of undergraduate students

  3. Thought provoking! Stereotypes prevent people from recognizing that diversity exists amongst indigenous people in Canada. Diverse in the number of unique nations and languages within larger groups. Diverse in the number of different interests and pursuits of individuals from these diverse nations and families. Diverse in our unique cultural expressions. What unites us is a connection to a land base that is shared by individuals who may or may not know and understand seasonal cycles of the ancestral territory, but who feel an affinity for where they are “from” and again on a spectrum. Very thought provoking video.

  4. sheila faith

    I thank you for the clarity, the insight, the poignant truth of every line in this daring, brave, and truthful literary piece. Unforgetable and inspiring.

  5. Julie Paquet

    Well done. I’ve got the message and the message is clear!

  6. Annette Skavinsky

    A great video that serves as a reminder of the stereotypes instilled in us during our childhood and the stereotypes that still exist today!

  7. SO much to think about here. Rich resource to use with students and student teachers. Many thanks for including this as part of this course. Sadly, I’m recalling the number of carved statues I’ve seen–and continue to see. Most recently, I asked a shop owner to remove it and he stared at me and said, “We’ve never had a problem with that before.” I responded with “Well, I’m your first then.” He never removed it–it’s still there.

  8. Cynthia Bird

    Thoroughly enjoyed this video! Great short video to start dialogue. It supports many First Nation Metis Inuit policy learning and curriculum outcomes and Treaty education outcomes. Many people are in search of the authentic “Indian” and still allow stereotypes to lead them. Let’s us all continue to dis-spell the myths and bring forth the truth about Indigenous peoples. Thank you Thomas King et al for your contributions!

  9. Pingback: ENG 3U: Voice – Mr. Pedrech

  10. Pingback: Lesson Plan: Debunking Our Own Stereotypes – The Portfolio of One Mr. Colangelo

  11. Pingback: Thomas King – I’m not the Indian you had in mind – Law and Poetry

  12. Pingback: Media Resources on Reconciliation – uucmthemes

  13. Pingback: Socials 9 Honours – msgilletteblog

  14. Angie

    I’ve read Medicine River. Thomas King is a great author and enlightens the reader with his stories.

  15. Julia

    Great video! Thanks! I hope people watch this with an open mind to realize the stereotypes that still exist in society today that are so deep-rooted some people see them as truths.

  16. Sue

    Excellent spoken word piece. Worth sharing.

  17. K Kelly

    well-done truth-telling mind-opening video…thank you all

  18. Crystal

    It is good to see videos like this to help us all change our own perspectives and ideologies in how we think about Aboriginal people. I learned my pre-conceived ideas through education and now it is education that has opened my eyes.

  19. Eileen

    This was wonderful. It should beincluded in school curriculums

  20. Giannina Veltri

    This video would be a great introduction in our classes as most students have quite a different perception about who the Aboriginal peoples are, possibly deriving from their upbringing and what they were taught growing up.

  21. Pingback: Truth and Reconciliation (by Adam Goodwin) | Adam Goodwin | Social Innovation | Education | Travel

  22. Donna Simon

    Great way to bring an awareness of the falsehoods in portraying aboriginal peoples. It brings the gentle awareness and starts people thinking and questioning their belief’s.

  23. Leigh-Anne Ingram

    Great! I want to share it with my grad students!

    • Maxine

      Such a thought-provoking and fitting film for me at this time! Excellent production!

  24. leona

    very well done ! thank you

  25. Brenda

    I am left with a question – why were we so easily influenced to accept untruths about Aboriginal Peoples via media? Where is today’s Reality in this matter? Could it be hiding behind Perception?

  26. Jillian

    Very engaging! I would like to see this in the classrooms. A message…relevance mixed with humor…would keep the students engaged while learning.

  27. Donna Simon

    Great reminder of the views that are subconsciously instilled in us through education, books, movies etc and are still alive and well still influencing everyone today

  28. Rob Kooy

    I’ve always appreciated Thomas King’s perspective and his commitment to preserving oral literature. Here again he shows us how deeply the stereotypes have been embedded in popular culture. This style of video narrative is unique, and I plan to use it as an introduction to my NBV3C0 Gr.11 Native Studies course starting second semester.

  29. Susan

    This video opened up my eyes to the realities of the forgotten past. Thank you for sharing. :)

  30. Kelly

    This reaffirms that we all have a responsibility to educate our children, our staff and our friends to stop using preconceived notions.

  31. Mary Ann Lyons

    I love this!!!!!

  32. Elizabeth Sharpe

    This has opened my mind to consider other perspectives and to understand my responsibility to do so. Very well done and a film to consider in future workshops.

  33. I not the Indian I live in two wolds being being Cree/Ojibwa/French Canadian I am a 72 year old Elder who sits many Native Boards. I open Aboriginal Day and help with Native studies at our school. Find educational native to be very slanted. Solwaker,

  34. Pingback: Our study of Colonization of Canada | Social Studies 9

  35. huw

    I/m standing with standing rock ! (an inconvenient white man)

  36. Pingback: Borderland Emotions – MCC LACA

  37. Pingback: Prix Met Bleu 2016 2/3 Thomas King | A r t s & S c i e n c e s

  38. Pingback: I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind – Scout's Honor

  39. Pingback: Aboriginal Religion | Golden Orchid

  40. Carey Stewart

    My Cultural Identity Begins Today! Thank You

  41. Peter McGuinness

    I use this video with my Grade 9 class (NAC1O1), where we are trying to intro price them to First Nations ways of Knowing and Thinking. I relay love this… I think back to my own days in school (60s and 70s), when I knew nothing about First Nations People and, as an immigrant kid, had only whatever my school taught me to draw on. Late in high school, I realized that Canadians were terribly racist and prejudiced when it came to First Nations, and resolved never to be.

  42. Pingback: Videos to show with your lessons | Best Practices in Education

  43. Danielle

    I love this video.
    Well put Well thought out.
    Right on point Thank You for putting the truth out there.
    We are here. We are People
    Not your cigar store ndn.

  44. Sheila

    As an Indigenous person, I am not “yours.” WE are people of this planet, and do not belong to anyone. When speaking about us, please call us “the” first people of this country. Many Thanks!

  45. Pingback: Week 6 – Link of the week | Keara is Blogging

  46. Pingback: Reflections: Aboriginals in Canada and Two Possible Meanings of “Discrimination” | Rarefactions: by Andrés Melo Cousineau

  47. Hailey

    I wish more elementary schools would actually include Indigenous people or organizations into each teacher’s individually planed idea of presentation or at least seek consultation towards the choice of materials that will be used to introduce vulnerable young minds to Aboriginals. To do so in order to accurately and respectfully introduce the children to the First Nations as people same like those sitting in the classroom and not objectified or a characterized from history. Have it taught through self representation or with authentic inclusion and not through a Eurocentric ideology of dictated narration of colonial assigned and regulated texts and visuals. To then have such “educators” willfully knowing the shortfall of genuine origin of content or denying any possibility to negative repercussions if absolutely no inclusion of the population is ever given reference, acknowledgement or sought out to be allowed to contribute to the national efforts is dishonoring. The attempt at education to raise awareness and create social change regarding the invisibleness of the Indigenous and social acceptance of commercialized imagery creating and strengthening stigmas is not being addressed in the best interests if the Institution is knowingly and willing practicing exclusion of the peoples of whom they are trying to advocate or represent on the behalf of.

  48. Pingback: I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind: Thomas King - Aboriginal Neighbours

  49. Tori

    Is this video available on any other sites? I want to show it to a class of grade 10 students, but my school’s internet seems to have determined it “inappropriate” and has denied me access to this page at school.

    • Laura Friesen
      Laura Friesen

      Hi Tori,

      I don’t see another video link online for this film. I would try contacting Big Soul Productions directly. There is contact information at the following link: http://bigsoul.net/contact-us/. Otherwise you might look into temporarily getting your school’s internet settings changed in order to view it on our website/on Vimeo.

      Hope this helps!

    • Kerri

      Hello Tori,

      I haven’t seen this video anywhere else. However, I would be questioning why it has been deemed “inapppropriate?” Maybe someone doesn’t want your students viewing it.. That’s very questionable.. I would ask your principal to have it allowed.

  50. Pingback: I'm Not the Indian You Had in Mind - mjbrown.com

  51. Pingback: Not the Indian You Had In Mind | Postcolonial Studies

  52. Helen Hoy

    V useful as an intro to Native literature courses.

  53. Meegwetch, I will certainly use this to close our class in Indigenous education issues…

  54. Pingback: Last Day at the TRC: Joy and Sadness, Hope and Disappointment | "As I mused, the fire burned"

  55. Pingback: A Talk on Metis Heritage | "As I mused, the fire burned"

  56. Pingback: Cross Cultural Perspectives; breaking up stereotypes

  57. Chris

    Great video, thanks so much, and for the Dead Dog Cafe, the Inconvenient Indian, ….

    Was just thinking how Pete Seeger and his lot, although they did a lot for inclusiveness, basically missed our first peoples.

  58. Pingback: Video “I’m Not That Indian You Had in Mind” | TGJ20 Comm Tech

  59. Pingback: *ENG3U* Week of September 16th | Brain Candy

  60. Pingback: I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind | Native Arts & Native Studies

  61. maggie

    Last year I decided to take an Indigenous class at Trent University, for an extra credit and did not imagine that I would have of came out of this class with so much more knowledge of the very first people of this land. I cannot believe that the rest of North America are not adding this to their Curriculum in all schools. I will do my part as a French and Irish Canadian to make sure that my children and grandchildren know who our first people of this country are and they are a great important to this world.

  62. Richard Lucier-larson

    Very Good, Our Metis extended family was and still is fans of the Dead dog cafe.
    Thank you Thomas King.

  63. five years later, still incredibly relevant.

Leave a comment