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What You See in Clear Water: Life On the…

What You See in Clear Water: Life On the Wind River Reservation

by Geoffrey O'Gara

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679404155, Hardcover)

Seventeen years ago, journalist Geoffrey O'Gara left Washington, D.C., for northwest-central Wyoming to take a job covering environmental and resource issues concerning the Rocky Mountain region. He settled on the outskirts of the Wind River Indian Reservation, and over the years became deeply attached to the land, its people, and the story of "two cultures that have been arguing for 150 years over the same beloved country, and trying to find a way to share it."

What You See in Clear Water traces the history of the reservation from its beginnings, when the Shoshone Indians signed a treaty entitling them to a region encompassing some 44 million acres, to the present, when a century and a half of cuts and revisions have reduced the reservation to 5 percent of its original size. The Shoshones have been compelled to share what remains with their traditional enemies, the Arapahos, and today, both peoples grapple with the familiar hardships of reservation life: poverty, high suicide rates, persistent health issues, and the hostility and indifference of their non-Indian neighbors. For the past two decades, much of that hostility has centered on a highly charged clash between the Indians and whites over water rights to the river that runs through the reservation.

Although O'Gara's narrative is anchored by the ongoing debate over who will decide the fate of the Wind River--and the lives of the people who depend on it--the story deftly and compassionately illuminates the larger conflict that has persisted ever since the European settlers came to the Americas. "It is the unfinished struggle between Native Americans and the whites who surround and threaten to subsume them--once a military conflict, now a cultural war, complicated after all these years by the fact that neighbors, even antagonistic neighbors, know one another in intimate and sometimes affectionate ways." And it is O'Gara's deep concern and abiding affection for the Wind River's inhabitants that give his book its power and its grace. --Svenja Soldovieri

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:04 -0400)

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