At the foot of Swift Dam

At the foot of Swift Dam

David Grewe, filming at the foot of Swift Dam, gives some perspective to the magnitude of pent-up water that hung above the valley in 1964.

But how much water drained from the dam after its collapse on June 8?

We can only rely on an estimate — taken 17 miles downstream from the site of the collapse, when much of the water’s force had dissipated. At that point, hydrologists estimated the flow at 881,000 cubic-feet-per-second.

How much water is that? More than the flow rate of Mississippi River, sweeping down through homes set along Birch Creek. Photo by Benjamin Shors

Interviewing Art

Interviewing Art

Torsten Kjellstrand made this photograph of Art Derouche, 70, explaining a rescue attempt along the Two Medicine River. Art quickly became one of our favorite interview sources — not just for his knowledge and insight into what happened on that day in June, 1964, but also for his warmth and humor. Art was 21 years old in 1964, when he and a friend tied barbed wire to an old tire and threw it into the river to rescue people stranded in a pickup in the floodwaters.

On Horseback, Rescuing the Stranded

On Horseback, Rescuing the Stranded

Floyd Takes Gun and his brother, Gordon, rescued 27 people from the floodwaters on horseback. The grandson of Chief Two Guns White Calf, the 70-year-old Takes Gun has avoided recognition for decades, choosing to avoid public memorials. Today, he is one of the last people living along the river bottom, near the home sites of his parents and grandparents. “This is my territory,” he said. “I’ll be out here till I die.” Photo by David Grewe.

Media coverage

The Flathead Beacon published a story on our project last week. You can read “Preserving Memories of the Blackfeet” here. Thanks to Justin Franz and the Beacon for the interest in our project. Justin gets to the guts of our project with this:  A big part of the presentation will be a mobile phone app that people will be able to download and use to travel across the reservation. At specific sites, video, photos and text pertaining to that spot will appear on the phone and people will be able to read about what happened there 50 years earlier.

Passing Into History

Passing Into History

When Betty Cooper picked up the San Francisco Chronicle on the day after the flood, it was the first news she had heard of the Blackfeet tragedy. A federal relocation program had moved her and her family to the Bay Area, a world away from her family in Montana. Her husband’s brother, Sam New Breast, as well as Sam’s wife and young daughter, died when Swift Dam collapsed, sending a wall of water down tiny Birch Creek.

“If you’re not home, there’s so many impacts, still today,” Cooper said. “So many young people don’t know about the flood. It’s passing into history.”

Photo by Lailani Upham.