Cherokee story recounted onstageOn a pleasant evening in Cherokee, N.C., I scrambled up a quarter-mile mountainside staircase to an open-air amphitheater to watch "Unto These Hills," a historical drama that traces the Cherokee from their years as a great American Indian culture in the early 1800s through the tragic Trail of Tears in 1838 to the present day.
The first act moved somewhat slowly, probably because I was familiar with much of the early history, but there were some interesting twists. For example, during the War of 1812 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the Cherokee leader Junaluska saved Col. Andrew Jackson's life, and
After the Cherokee were herded into stockades, they soon began the 1,200-mile march, which resulted in much suffering and death. Some of them escaped into the mountains, among them the leader Tsali. When he and his family were captured and mistreated, he killed two soldiers and escaped.
Col. William Stanhope Foster, the
Besides the military action, the play features many songs, such as the one performed by an American Indian woman describing an awareness that danger is coming. Along with the war dances, which look authentic, are some fun-filled dances, one of which looked like it was straight out of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and another similar to something from "West Side Story." Still, I found the play an educational and worthwhile experience. It runs through Aug. 18.
"Unto These Hills" is the premier show, having been viewed by more than 6 million people. However, other shows by American Indians also are produced. This summer, "Unto these Hills" alternates with a new production, "Cherokee Family Reunion." There also is a pre-show of singers playing both country and Cherokee music.