Bartering with the Bones of Their Dead

The Colville Confederated Tribes and Termination

Laurie Arnold

  • Published: 2012
  • Subject Listing: Native American and Indigenous Studies; History / Western History
  • Bibliographic information: 208 pp., 10 illus., 2 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Bartering with the Bones of their Dead tells the unique story of a tribe whose members waged a painful and sometimes bitter twenty-year struggle among themselves about whether to give up their status as a sovereign nation. Over one hundred federally recognized Indian tribes and bands lost their sovereignty after the Eisenhower Administration enacted a policy known as termination, which was carefully designed to end the federal-Indian relationship and to dissolve Indian identity. Most tribes and bands fought this policy; the Colville Confederated Tribes of north-central Washington State offer a rare example of a tribe who pursued termination.

Some Colville tribal members who favored termination wanted a life free from federal supervision and a return to the era when each band of the confederation managed its own affairs. Other termination advocates simply sought the financial payout that termination promised. Opponents of termination wanted to protect tribal identities and lands, hoped to preserve the Colville heritage and homeland for future generations, and sought to compel the federal government to live up to its promises. Laurie Arnold tells the story of those years on the Colville reservation with the perspective both of a thorough and careful historian and of an insider who grew up listening to the voices and memories of her elders.

Watch the book trailer:
Laurie Arnold is the director of Native American Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. She is an enrolled member of the Lakes Band of Colville Confederated Tribes.

"Bartering with the Bones of Their Dead is a significant contribution to the field of 20th-century American Indian policy studies. Laurie Arnold's historical case study of her own tribal community's fractured reaction to federal termination efforts provides a nuanced view of American Indian responses to the difficult issues they faced. Arnold does a masterful job piecing together a complex and painful era of Colville history. In doing so, she broadens our understandings of intratribal decision making and local impacts of federal initiatives."
-David R. M. Beck, author of Seeking Recognition: The Termination and Restoration of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, 1855-1984

1. "We want to be Indians forever."
2. "It is like giving your eagle feather away."
3. "Soon buried in a junk pile of Cadillacs."
4. "What is their future?"
5. "Come back from your pilgrimage to nowhere."
6. "Not another inch, not another drop."
Conclusion: "We kept getting a little bit smarter."

Appendix: Major Legislation Affecting the Colville Confederated Tribes

"This work is a significant contribution to the ever-growing array of studies of termination and Indian life."
-John H. Barnhill, Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources, June 2013

"This is an excellent tribal case study of the kind and caliber needed for further understanding of the termination era. It shows how complicated, intense, and permutable the positions and arguments on termination could be among Native groups. It shows how Native individuals played crucial and diverse roles in affecting tribal outcomes in regard to termination and expansive federal policy."
-Sam Herley, Western Historical Quarterly, Fall 2013

"Arnold, tribal member and director of Native American Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame, succinctly chronicles the response of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in all its complex detail. Recommended."
-Choice, March 2013

"The net effect of Arnold's narrative strategy may be that future generations of Colvilles, and future generations of scholars, will see this book not only as a valuable work of tribal history but also as a document of Colville cultural continuity."
-Thompson Smith, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Spring 2013

"The literature on termination as an Indian policy has been significantly enriched with this publication."
-Eleanor Carriker, Columbia Reviews, Spring 2013

"Laurie Arnold, a member of the Lakes Band of Colville Confederated Tribes, writes thoroughly and sensitively about both sides . . ."
-Jeff Baker, The Oregonian, December 2012