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Unto These Hills: A Retelling

By Shawndee Jenkins
On July 17, 2009

  • Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Sam Miller goes over proposed Western Carolina University tuition and fee hikes at a recent forum at the UC Theatre. Kalen Quinn

Unto These Hills, an event located in the mountains of Cherokee, NC is the second largest running-outdoor drama in the United States. Work began in 1948 to create the drama, and it is now celebrating its 60-year anniversary of the historical retelling of the life of the Cherokee Indian, then and now.

The drama itself is a two-hour long play that moves through history in the progression of thirteen scenes. These scenes introduce the seven clans of the Cherokee Indian tribe, Tecumsah – a Shawnee Indian who went to the Cherokee people and asked them to keep their way of life, Junaluska – a Cherokee Indian who saved Andrew Jackson's life, Yonaguska – the Chief of Peace, and Sequoya – the man responsible for the creation of the Cherokee alphabet.

Later scenes go on to retell the historic removal of the Cherokee Indians from their land, known as the Trail of Tears. It also depicts events that lead up to it such as the discovery of gold in the mountains, the biggest incentive for forcing the Cherokee Indian off their homeland. In the last scenes of the drama, all can see the sacrifices that so many people for the preservation of their homeland. Tsali, a Cheorkee Indian, gave his life so that some of his people could stay.

Apart from the action that captivates the audience, the drama is a very culture-enriching experience. It follows alongside the Cherokee Indian tradition of an oral lifestyle where traditions, songs, and stories are passed down generations. The most important reason the drama was constructed was the purpose of preserving the Cherokee Indian culture where the Cherokees could rewrite their culture back into history.

The drama has proven to be a great promoter of tourism, and the reservation is particularly thankful not only for the revenue it brings in, but also for the exposure it allows so many people to experience. Most importantly, it is great for the community because it is an active symbol of the Cherokee culture itself: storytelling.

The drama shows Monday through Saturday starting at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or by telephone.


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