We open on the mountains of Letcher County, Kentucky. Elaine Tanner and Jimmy Hall both have deep roots there, in Elaine’s Cherokee heritage and Jimmy’s multi-generational family history on Beaver Mountain. When Jimmy’s uncle passed and that very property went up for sale, the couple jumped at the opportunity to come home.
They knew that Consol Coal had permits to use parts of the land for mining, but when they arrived they found extensive destruction. They fought legal battles for years, trying to find justice for their damaged water sources and scarred land. They faced small victories and many defeats, but pushed on regardless. Today, they’re starting down another route towards justice.
The law can punish, but it can’t heal their land and community. That’s something only hard work and passion can do. The couple aims to make their home a place for others to visit, to see the beauty of Eastern Kentucky, to connect with nature, and to witness the destruction people have caused here. They hope to bring attention to coal contaminated waters and restore the natural beauty of Beaver Mountain.
Thank you to Elaine and Jimmy for telling their story. Thanks also to Appalachian Voices for making this documentary possible and for contributing footage.
This is a project of the Advanced Video Storytelling course at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media.