Thomas King

Thomas King, who was born in Sacramento, California in 1943, is an American-Canadian writer and broadcast presenter who most often writes about North America’s First Nations. “Borders” is one of those stories which King tries to raise awareness of the societal issues of the First Nations battle. In the story, the conflict begins with the dispute between Laetitia’s mother and each individual border guard. Through the title, the setting, and the characters, Thomas King indicates two borders: one is the obvious physical border between Canada and USA, the other is the hidden border between someone’s identity and citizenship, which is the main border in this story. He wants to show us that citizenship does not define oneself, your identity come from within and you have the right to take pride in your origins, no matter the struggles you may face.
The main setting of the story is at the U.S border crossing at the village of Coutts Alberta where Laetitia was last seen before leaving for Salt Lake City. The name Coutts sounds “abrupt and rude” (King 136) which is really effective to connect with the story’s tone. Thomas King uses “Coutts” to express his feeling about the indigenous who are being offended by having to deny their identities. When the narrator and his mother go to visit his sister, they need to cross the border into the United States. The narrator mentions dressing up for the trip because “mother did not want us crossing the border looking like American” (135). Crossing the border symbolizes giving up your identity and leaving your country behind. When approached by the border patrol, the mother refuses to claim her nationality as anything other than “Blackfoot” (139). This story makes a very solid declaration about the First Nations and their fight for independence and identity while living as part of another nation.
King tells the story from limited omniscient point of view through a twelve-year-old boy who becomes mature through his experience of crossing the US – Canadian border. This makes the readers reflect the story and try to find the answers by themselves. Also, narration by a young boy gives the story a sense of an “innocent eye” perspective, even humorous. For instance, the two border guards are described coming out of their office as “swaying back and forth like two cowboys headed for a bar or a gunfight” (137). An adult probably won’t think like that, but in a child’s eyes, how they walk looks just that funny. Another example is during the second night, while the mother is telling traditional stories to her son, he is so hungry that all he can think is if Mel will bring them some hamburgers (144). On the other hand, he notices the woman in American border office who comes to talk to his mother that she has a gun, her gun is silver, there are “several chips in the wood handle,” and her name ‘Stella’ is “scratched into the metal butt” (138). Another place is the description of a media guy who is “good-looking”, “in a dark blue suit and an orange tie with little ducks on it” (145). Moreover, he starts thinking about “Pride” which is a good thing to have and someday he’d have it like his mother (142). This makes readers are really amazed by the way a young boy can observe things and become full-grown.
Additionally, King reveals the protagonist, Laetitia’ mother, as a static character who never once denies her identity no matter how many times she is pressed to choose either American or Canadian. The issue of identity is pushed to a higher level as Laetitia’s mother, is willing to define her Blackfoot heritage even when encounters with the possibility of not seeing her daughter. Even her son knows that “It would have been easier if my mother had just said “Canadian” ” (137) but she has too much pride to point it out. She carries pride for her family, culture, and where she comes from. In closing, she keeps coming back to the border to still identify herself as a Blackfoot. From all details, readers might have impression of her strength in facing all difficulties to protect her heritage.
The same as her mother, “Laetitia had a lot of pride” (142). Laetitia’s attitude changes dramatically in the story. Earlier, she thought Salt Lake City was “one of the best places in the world” (141). But after seeing her mom’s story on TV, she feels so proud of her mom that she have they tell her the story over and over again (146). At the end of the story, she becomes tired of the city and thinks about returning to Blackfoot (147). The change of her attitude towards Blackfoot reveals that she is aware of her identity and proud of being a Blackfoot.
After all, “Borders” is a meaningful story and a declaration of identity. No matter what people say, you must honor your identity first. In fact, you can easily change you citizenship, but your identity can’t be changed because it’s bonded to your history and culture.