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The Cherokee Experience


Cherokee Historical Association presents……

By Glenn Arnette, lll

Thanks to the Cherokee Historical Association, a tradition was started in Cherokee, North Carolina in 1950 and it has become one of the most successful outdoor dramas in America.  

“Unto These Hills” presented its first performance on July 1, 1950 written by Kermit Hunter and has and still is playing to millions of people over the years.  It is an authentic production rewritten by Linda West Squirrel in 2008 and concentrates on the historical accuracy of “The Trail of Tears”, a dark and despairing time in the history of the Cherokee nation, but ends in celebration of a people who have held onto their ways by actively blending their traditions with what the world offers today.  

No matter how many times you go to see the “Unto These Hills” production at the Mountainside Theatre, you will be overwhelmed by the scope of the stage, number of performers and the natural beauty of the scenery.  There is something very special sitting there in the midst of the mountain surrounded by trees waiting for dusk and the start of the play.

The most important reason for “Unto These Hills” and the “Oconaluftee Indian Village” is to preserve and celebrate Cherokee culture and history.  The village is real, alive with pride as the Cherokee natives share the lifestyle from the 18th century.  You are there and in this living history section.

From the dances of the Cherokee to the making of baskets known as splints made from different types of wood and from river cane and the living conditions of the period, you will leave with respect and love for the kindness of the people.

Cherokee, North Carolina for all of my life has been a destination stop and a must to see “Unto These Hills” outdoor drama and the “Oconaluftee Indian Village.”  It is just one of those things you must do over and over again as there is always something new.

I remember the days of college when I wanted to be a part of the production and auditioned.  I never made it!  The talents are exceptional and require stamina and strength through the Summer season.

 One of the most famous parts of the production is the Eagle Dance, a signature of the play.  The dance has been a feature over the years and it is so “Cherokee” that it still sends chills up and down the spine.  From the pre dusk show, presented by young talents and special songs of the Nation to the introduction of Kanati and Selu (The Great Hunter and the Corn Mother) who guide you through the lives of Tasli, Junaluska, Yonaguska, John Ross, William Holland Thomas and Sequoyah you will live every moment of this historical creation that stays to fact and tells the truth of Cherokee people.

The changes in Cherokee, North Carolina is most exciting.  The little village is now a mecca for entertainment and still growing.  From the shops to Harrahs Casino, you will love your visit!  This is a wonderful family opportunity and a must for all ages!  By-the-way, the cast has a meet and greet after the production!

For information on the Oconaluftee Indian Village and Unto These Hills go to their website: www.cherokeeadventure.com or call 866-554-4557 for information.  They are a member of the Southern Highlands Attractions!