“But Governments Do What Governments Do”

Selling Your Father's BonesBook Review

Selling Your Father’s Bones:
America’s 140-Year War Against the Nez Perce Tribe

by Brian Schofield

Simon & Schuster | 356 pp | $26
ISBN: 978-1-416539-93-3

“Yep, my family was never happy with what happened to the Nez Perce – but governments do what governments do,” said a non-Indian whose great-grandfather came to the land originally held by the Nez Perce in 1872.

The individual quoted was one of several people interviewed by British author, Brian Schofield, for his book called, “America’s 140-Year War Against the Nez Perce Tribe.” Schofield researched the book by traveling to Nez Perce territory to interview descendants of the Nez Perce and non-Indians whose ancestors came to settle in the West.

“But Governments Do What Governments Do” is a poor excuse or justification for the thievery of the land.

Schofield writes that the Manifest Destiny doctrine was used to justify the taking of the land from the Nez Perce. However, in his analysis, Schofield writes both individual and corporate greed was the real motivation behind the taking of the land.

Schofield capably intertwines the history of the Nez Perce Tribewith the present throughout “Selling Your Father’s Bones.”

The history of the Nez Perce was one of a fractured tribe, split between those who became Christians and those who held the traditional beliefs of their forefathers. Fractured still between those who signed the treaties with the United States and those who resisted.

“Selling Your Father’s Bones” concentrates on Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Tribe. Chief Joseph is one of the most famous and legendary leaders in all American Indian history.

“Never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and mother,”

was what Chief Joseph’s father, Chief Tuekakas said to him shortly before he died in 1871.

These powerful words kept the fight alive within Chief Joseph. He later commented,

“I clasped my father’s hand and promised to do as he asked. A man who would not defend his father’s grave is worse than a wild beast.”

Chief Joseph survived his father by thirty-three years. During the course of that time, fight in him lessened and he was forcibly removed. He even led part of the Nez Perce into Canada. Chief Joseph died of a broken heart.

The last chapter of “Selling Your Father’s Bones” is entitled:“We’re still here.” In it, Schofield writes how the Nez Perce Tribe still remains. This, of course, in spite of what happened to them with removal and the government giving them a smaller piece of land.

The point of still being here could be written about so many other American Indian tribes which have survived – even with“governments doing what governments do.”

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