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Tar Creek: A History of the Quapaw Indians, The World's Largest Lead and Zinc Discovery, and the Tar Creek Superfund Site Review by Dawn OaksLarry G. Johnson
127 E. Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
Like many other homeschooling families, our family loves anything that allows for learning across different subject areas. Tar Creek is a book that fills that bill. As the title states, it is the historical account of the Quapaw Indians and how the lead and zinc discoveries in the early 1900s affected them as a group.
Mr. Johnson begins by discussing two groups of the Dhegiha Sioux who migrated--one group southward and the other westward--from their original location in the Ohio Valley. The group that headed southward became known as the Quapaw people, derived from "Ug'akhpa," meaning "Downstream People." A presentation of Quapaw culture gives the reader a better feel for the people and their customs. The impact of the early explorers, such as Lewis and Clark as well as LaSalle, is discussed at length so that the reader can gain an appreciation for how outsiders can dramatically change the customs of a people group. An important highlight to our family was the impact of the Civil War amongst the Quapaws, an event that is usually characterized only as a struggle between the Northern and Southern States and a discussion of the enslavement of the African people. Never before in our studies have we so dramatically seen the impact of this war on the Native American groups. This was a powerful lesson to our children on how our actions and decisions can affect others in ways that we are not even aware of.
Part II of Tar Creek is an in-depth discussion and analysis of the discovery of lead and zinc in lands belonging to the Quapaw people. Once again, the Native Americans were dramatically impacted by treaties with the white men. The treaties left the Quapaws being taken advantage of once again as their lands were leased and mined. Mining is a well-known industry to us today. To the Quapaws, who worshipped Mother Earth, mining was a completely foreign concept. When they fully realized what the white man was doing, the mining was seen as a violation of their lives on many levels.
Discussion of the mining operations reveals the influx of outsiders into the area, the ravaging and exploitation of the land, and the way the area was abandoned when the natural resources had been depleted. Anecdotal accounts and tales are presented to make the historical impact come alive. Tar Creek comes to a close with an account of the modern-day status of these communities, lands, and people.
In reviewing entire text, we found lessons in anthropology, the science and industrial practices of the mining industry, local and global economics, and the health and environmental impacts of mining as an industry. The study of the culture and customs of the Quapaw people also provided an opportunity to evaluate their culture based on Scripture.
Tar Creek is a publication from Tate Publishing. As with many other resources from Tate, there is an audio download code in the back of the text for those who like to listen while traveling in the car or for those that are auditory learners. It is our family's opinion that Tar Creek would make a wonderful unit study for any high school or advanced junior high school student, especially those who love to study Native Americans.