Selling Your Father’s Bones: America’s 140-Year War Against the Nez Perce Tribe by Brian Schofield
This account of the Nez Percé’s trials is a painful tale well told. British journalist Schofield writes a history of this Columbia River Valley tribe down to its present-day remnant, confined to a modest Idaho reservation. Casting a wide net, he also describes white settlement in the northwest, emphasizing its devastation of wildlife, soil, rivers and forests. The Nez Perce’s troubles began in the 1850s when the U.S. began insisting the tribe make room for white settlers. The author recounts 20 years of coercion and broken treaties until, in 1877 the tribe was ordered out of its homeland entirely. In defiance of the ordered confinement to a Christian reservation, Nez Percé leaders led their people on a heroic flight across Idaho and Montana, inflicting humiliating defeats on pursuing soldiers, but ending in a tragic surrender. America evicted the tribe in favor of that legendary frontier icon, the homesteader, but, ironically, the area is too dry for small farms. Today it consists largely of ranches, timber reserves and irrigated factory farms dependent on government-subsidized water. This is a colorful, action-packed frontier history in which, many will feel, the bad guys won. 352 pages. $22.99