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Above the Clearwater

Living on Stolen Land

Bette Lynch Husted

6 × 9 inches. 176 pages.

2004. ISBN 978-0-87071-007-0. Paperback, $18.95.

Like her father before her, Bette Husted grew up on stolen land. The bench land above the Clearwater River in north-central Idaho had been a home for the Nez Perce Indians until the Dawes Act opened their reservation to settlement in 1895. As a child on the family homestead, Husted felt the presence of the Nez Perce: "But they were always just out of sight, like a smoky shadow behind me that I couldn't quite turn around quickly enough to catch."

Above the Clearwater chronicles her family's history on the land, revealing their joys and sorrows, their triumphs and tragedies. In a series of graceful and moving essays, Husted traces this intimate history, from her Cold War childhood to her struggles as a parent and finally to her life as a woman and teacher in the rural West. Her family's stories echo those of countless other families in the American West: the conflicts with guns, the struggles over land ownership and water rights, the isolation of women, the separations by race and class, the family secrets of mental illness and suicide.

With a powerful, poetic voice, Husted illuminates the tangled relationship between the history of a particular place and the history of the families who inhabit that place over time. As Above the Clearwater explores one family's search for a home on land taken from its original inhabitants, it quietly asks all readers to examine their own homes in the same light.

Member of AAUP