Paper pub. date
January 2004
ISBN 9780870710070 (paperback)
6 x 9 inches, 176 pages.

Above the Clearwater

Living on Stolen Land

Bette Lynch Husted

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.

About the author

Bette Lynch Husted's stories, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Northern Lights, Northwest Review, and Fourth Genre. One of the essays in Above the Clearwater was selected as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2000, and another is included in the anthology, Best Essays Northwest. She has taught in high schools and community colleges in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, and now lives in Pendleton, Oregon. Above the Clearwater is her first book.

Read more about this author


Looking for Home

  • Indians
  • Land and the Language of Silence
  • Looking for Home
  • Letting the Women Talk
  • Water Stories
  • Guns
  • Tracking My Father


  • Following the Deer
  • Salmon Run
  • Homeless

Learning to Live on Stolen Land

  • On Water and On Land
  • Roots
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Seedlings

"Like the river of its name, Bette Husted's book runs with clarity and passion. Complex, harsh, and tender, never taking the easy way out, this memoir is beautiful in its honesty. I never read anything truer to the Western land and people."

—Ursula K. Le Guin

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