Bones Beneath Our Feet was chosen as a Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Association Celebration of Authors Pick & Nominated for the

Washington State Book Award in 2011

 

“Michael Schein’s novel, Bones Beneath Our Feet, does for the Pacific Northwest what Nathaniel Philbrick did for the East Coast in Mayflower. The history of First People and Boston tribes in the Puget Sound is meticulously researched and brought to life with sensitive depictions and dialog that reads itself from the page. . . . The author claims some poetic license in the ordering and telling of events, and uses it well, building a story on true facts and bringing those facts to life. Huge numbers of characters people the pages yet somehow are never confusing, all seeming like old friends when they reappear. Each voice is convincingly given its say with multiple points of view building up to a well-rounded depiction of trust betrayed, communication found wanting, and hope misplaced. But the deepest hopes are reserved for a land that is never truly owned. Their bones still lie beneath our feet, and forest and stream will never belong to us; they’re just on loan.”

 

Sheila Deeth, Gather.Com – 8.13.11

 

“One of the best historical novels I've read yet. The characters engaged me from the beginning. I learned so much about this area of the country. You must read this book. I still see the boy trying to keep his disturbed mother from jumping out her bedroom window. Excellent book.”

 

Ann Hite, Goodreads - 9.6.11

 

Read an excerpt (below) from Bones Beneath Our Feet:

Bones Beneath Our Feet:

A Historical Novel of Puget Sound

©2014 Michael Schein

Bennett & Hastings Publishing

 

Excerpt from Chapter Six

 

As the early dusk of Christmas Eve fell over the treaty grounds, a commotion arose at the western bank of the rain-swollen creek. It was the Governor and his entourage, canoeing up from the steamer Major Tompkins, that had whisked them from Olympia to the delta in only two hours. Moving with the efficiency of ants, the Bostons unloaded mountains of supplies, setting up two large white canvas tents, each the size of hunting camps. On tables that had been constructed for this purpose, they piled great platters of beef, mutton, venison, elk, goose, duck and salmon, along with carrots and potatoes, all still steaming from the shipboard ovens.

 

The Governor quickly disappeared into a tent, but Leschi was gratified to see his old friend Mike Simmons emerge through the darkening air, his formerly flame-red beard now tangled with grey. Though Mike was strong as ever, Leschi noticed the creeping paunch around his middle, a sign not merely of age but of new-found prosperity. “Mike Simmons!” he called, and Mike came right over and extended a big, calloused hand.

 

“Leschi! Klahowya?” was all Mike could say, his Chinook being somewhat limited, “Klahowya? klahowya?” – “How are you? how are you?” – and he pulled Leschi in to his chest and pounded him on the back.

 

“Muck-a-muck?” asked Leschi, hungrily eyeing the mounds of food.

 

“Wake” – “No” – answered Mike, shaking his head and waving Ben Shaw over to interpret. “Before we feast,” he began, his drawl clipped by Shaw’s Northern chirp, “there is much to do. Since the first day we met, I have always wanted to repay the favor you did us, Leschi. Now, I can do so. I am joined with the greatest Tyee in the West, Isaac Stevens. It pleases him to use his power to help the Indians, and this pleases me too, because of our long friendship.” After pausing to allow Shaw to interpret his words, Mike held up a paper covered in ornate black scrawls. “This, Leschi, is an important paper that I have gotten for you. It is a commission signed by the Governor himself, appointing you as one of the Chiefs of the Nisquallies. With this paper, the Great Father in Washington City will recognize you as a big man with the power to sign a treaty for all of your tribe. This paper is strong medicine; guard it carefully, and keep it always safe.” Mike held out the paper to Leschi, who took it proudly, and displayed it about for his family and tribesmen to see.

 

“Quiemuth,” called Mike, and Quiemuth stepped forward. Speaking through Shaw, Mike bestowed upon him with equal ceremony, another commission as a Chief of the Nisquallies. Quiemuth held it out from his face, as if it might bite. The paper felt dry, a thing of death. It had no scent. He had no place to keep such a totem; he handed it to Moonya with instructions to place it between two mats, roll it up, put it inside a bearskin pouch, and carry it straight to the medicine man to be examined for evil tamanous.

 

Mike distributed several more commissions to other Nisqually head men, including John Hiton of Olympia, and Wahoolit of Yelm Prairie. To Leschi’s dismay, Mike also handed a commission to Wyamooch, who glowed with pleasure at the recognition denied by his own tribe.

 

Then Mike held up another even larger paper. “This paper,” he said through Shaw, “contains on it the outline of Whulge, all the land from the ocean to the tops of the Cascade Mountains, and from the Columbia River to the tip of Vancouver’s Island. For reference, we’ve drawn the principal lakes and rivers, as best as we could do it. Using these pencils that I will give you –” and he held up sticks, pointed like small black-tipped arrows – “the Governor orders the Chiefs to draw out the full area of land which has been claimed by your tribe in the past. This is not the land you will get when we make our treaty, but the lands you now claim, including the lands you will sell to us so that all of us, and our children, may forever live together in peace. Do you understand?”

 

Leschi nodded though his head was spinning, for it would not do for a great Tyee to betray any sign of weakness. Mike handed over the paper with an eager flash of his green eyes. “Kloshe, kloshe,” he said without Shaw’s aid – “Good, good.” Leschi, Quiemuth, and their fellow Chiefs spread the large map on a table furnished by Simmons, and huddled by the light of the Bostons’ oil lanterns. The paper was filled with squiggly black lines, but no matter how long they discussed it, they could not fathom how this paper related to their river with its still pools, narrow rapids, broad rocky crossings and meanderings. They and their ancestors wandered far and wide, as did the people of the neighboring tribes; what were they to say about the overlap in their lands? And what of the places where only spirits could go – if they were to mark those down upon the white man’s talking paper, would the spirits be angered? They stared and stared but could not see Ta-co-bet’s shimmering snowfields on the paper, or the soft limbs of the red alder glowing in late autumn sunshine, or the splashing smaller creeks like Muck and Tanwax and Ohop, or the spike and bright yellow spathe of the skunk cabbage in spring, or the quiet marshes where the great blue heron stands still as death, waiting for the silver flash of a fish, or even Laliad, spirit of the wind, which every fool knows is everywhere.

 

When Mike returned but a short time later, he was annoyed to find that they had marked nothing on their paper. Pulling a watch from his pocket he exploded with a long string of angry words. Shaw sought in vain a translation for “hour,” then whittled it down to one bland question: “It has been an hour – what have you been doing?”

 

Insulted, Leschi tried to explain. “This oow of which you speak, it is nothing. We have wandered this land since Whulge was new.”

 

Mike just scowled, and grabbed the map away. “Tell me, what is the farthest south your people range?”

“To the Skookumchuk,” replied Leschi, referring to the fast-running river that flows into the land of the Chehalis.

“And the furthest north?”

 

“The T’kope,” replied Leschi, referring to the river that joins the Puyallup, then empties into Commencement Bay by the growing town of Tacoma.

 

“OK,” said Mike. “And we’ll assume you go all the way from Sound to mountains – right?” No answer. So he made two big slashes on the talking paper. “There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” he asked with an unfriendly grin. “Now you can muck-a-muck,” he added as an afterthought. Gathering up the pencils and the map, he rushed off to the next table, where the Puyallups stood puzzling over their own strange talking paper, to do the same for them.

 

The Nisquallies shuffled off to the feasting tables, but the food was cold.

 

 

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