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.

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  4. Carey Stewart

    My Cultural Identity Begins Today! Thank You

  5. 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.

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  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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  11. 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.

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  13. 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.

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  16. Helen Hoy

    V useful as an intro to Native literature courses.

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

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  21. 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.

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  25. 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.

  26. Richard Lucier-larson

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

  27. five years later, still incredibly relevant.

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