Inspiration for the story...
The inspiration for STAY OUT STAY ALIVE began when writer/director Dean Yurke heard a story on the radio about the dangers of abandoned mines – over 500,000 exist in the U.S. – and the dire misfortune that can befall those who venture into them. This immanently intriguing story dovetailed with Dean’s own fascination with mining during the 19th Century California Gold Rush and it’s impact on both Native Americans and the natural environment in the state of California he has called home since moving to the U.S from England in 1997 to work as a visual effects artist. Thus STAY OUT STAY ALIVE was born. Read on to learn more about abandoned mines, the Gold Rush, and a haunting curse that may still hold power today!
“Stay Out Stay Alive”
“Every year, dozens of people are injured or killed while exploring or playing on mine property. Consequently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) created “Stay Out, Stay Alive,” a public safety campaign to educate children and adults about the existing hazards at active and abandoned mine sites….There are about 14,000 active and as many as 500,000 abandoned mines in the nation. As cities and towns spread into the surrounding countryside and more people visit remote locations, the possibility of contact with an active or abandoned mine increases.”
The hazards of abandoned mines are numerous and deadly. Asphyxiation due to bad air is a leading cause of death. Mines can contain dangerous gases or have low levels of oxygen. Some victims don’t realize they are inhaling dangerous air until it was too late. Other causes of death include falling, electrocution, unstable dynamite explosions, passage collapse, flooding, rattlesnake bite, even contracting the Hantavirus from the inhalation of stirred up rat droppings!
Watch the public service video “Stay Out and Stay Alive” here:
Gold Rush and Chief Tenaya’s Curse:
Brutal conflict between Native Americans, settlers, goldminers, and U.S. government forces erupted in California Gold Country in 1850 with the start of the Mariposa Indian War. After Chief Tenaya’s son was killed by a member of the Mariposa Battalion in the Yosemite region in 1851, the chief delivered this curse:
“Kill me, sir Captain! Yes, kill me, as you killed my son; as you would kill my people if they were to come to you! You would kill all my race if you had the power. Yes, sir, American, you can now tell your warriors to kill the old chief; you have made me sorrowful, my life dark; you killed the child of my heart, why not kill the father? But wait a little; when I am dead I will call to my people to come to you, I will call louder than you have had me call; that they shall hear me in their sleep, and come to avenge the death of their chief and his son. Yes, sir, American, my spirit will make trouble for you and your people, as you have cause trouble to me and my people. With the wizards, I will follow the white men and make them fear me. You may kill me, sir, Captain, but you shall not live in peace. I will follow in your foot-steps, I will not leave my home, but be with the spirits among the rocks, the water-falls, in the rivers and in the winds; wheresoever you go I will be with you. You will not see me, but you will fear the spirit of the old chief, and grow cold. The great spirits have spoken! I am done.”
For information on Chief Tenaya’s Curse cited in the film, as well as the Mariposa War and the Gold Rush, read the definitive book “The Age of Gold“ by Professor H.W. Brands:
Some believe Chief Tenaya’s curse is still in effect and that it correlates with the many mysterious disappearances and deaths that occur each year in Yosemite. Rock climbers plummet to their deaths; groups of people are swept over waterfalls; rock falls reign down unexpectedly; people simply go missing. Has the Curse of Chief Tenaya been re-awakened or has it always been ever-present, “among the rocks, the water-falls, in the rivers and in the winds.” See the book “Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite” by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Charles R. Farabee
Other interesting titles:
Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873
by Brendan C. Lindsay
“Legends of the Yosemite Miwok” by Frank La Pena
“California – A History” by Kevin Starr
“Indians of the Yosemite Valley and Vicinity” by Galen Clark:
The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest For Fortune by Edward Dolnick:
Mud, Blood, and Gold: San Francisco in 1849 by Rand Richards