Creek Runs Red, The
The Creek Runs Red explores the human response to an environmental disaster and the complex connection between people and place. More »
Program Length: 57 minutes
Production Staff: Producers/Directors: Bradley Beesley, James Payne and Julianna Brannum (Comanche)
Production Company: The Creek Runs Red, LLC & KERA
The Website for The Creek Runs Red
Public Broadcast Release: November 2007
Located in the far northeast corner of Oklahoma, Picher emerged from the rolling prairie of the Quapaw Indian tribal lands and became the hub of the richest lead and zinc mining field on the planet. The town thrived and provided bullets for two world wars before beginning a slow decline.
After decades of mining, towering gray hills (or "chat piles") of mine waste covered 25-thousand acres, devastating Quapaw tribal lands, as well as local economies. When the mining stopped in the early 1970s, rusty-red acid mine water began to slowly fill the shafts and cavities beneath the surface until finally spilling over. Springs flowed from the ground and through the fields, burning the legs of the cattle. Eventually the water reached Tar Creek, killing the fish and staining it burnt red.
For most people of Picher, the chat piles and the environmental hazards have become part of life, while the immediacy of work, Friday night football, and Sunday church takes precedence. The strange landscape and history of the place are a source of pride and nostalgia. The isolation of this small corner of America has preserved a sense of rural values and community.
Perhaps, because of this, some people desperately wish to stay and to revitalize their town, despite the apparent dangers and lack of opportunity. However, others feel that the toxic environment has already taken its toll on their families and that we might be just beginning to understand the longterm impacts. Scientists at The Center for Disease Control still consider lead exposure the number one threat to children's health in the U.S.
The Creek Runs Red is an emotionally stirring and intimate portrait of a small town struggling to determine its future in light of its past.
Tags: environmental, Quapaw, land, lead, superfund, Picher, Oklahoma
Product ID: CRED-07-H