Unto These Hills

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Unto These Hills
Cast members of "Unto These Hills" Cherokee, NC IMG 4867.JPG
The cast assembles for the drama, July 19, 2012.
Written by Kermit Hunter
Date premiered July 1, 1950 (1950-07-01)
Place premiered Cherokee, North Carolina
Genre Outdoor historical drama
Unto These Hills emblem IMG 4863.JPG
Singers perform on the left side of the amphitheater before the play begins and the audience gathers.
Another look at the play
Closeup of Unto These Hills performers

Unto These Hills is an outdoor historical drama staged Monday through Saturday evenings during summers at the 2,800-seat Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee in western North Carolina. It is the third oldest outdoor historical drama in the United States, after The Lost Colony in Manteo in eastern, North Carolina, as well as Ramona in California. The first version of the play was written by Kermit Hunter and opened on July 1, 1950, to wide acclaim.

The play follows the story of the Cherokee of the Eastern region up to their removal in 1838 via the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The drama includes notable Cherokee historic figures, including Sequoyah, Junaluska, Chief Yonaguska or Drowning Bear, and William Holland Thomas (the adopted son of Drowning Bear and the first and only white chief of the Cherokee), Selu the Corn Mother, and Kanati the Great Hunter.


The play has run for more than 60 years at the Mountainside Theatre.[1]

Famous alumni of Unto These Hills include Michael Rosenbaum, best known for his portrayal of Lex Luthor on Smallville and actor and former U.S. Representative Ben L. Jones of Georgia, a regular on CBS's The Dukes of Hazzard.[2]

In 2006, the EBCI Tribal Government hired playwright Hanay Geiogamah to revise the script, the first complete rewrite since the play was instituted. A Kiowa, Geiogamah is a writer/director/producer of Native American dramas, as well as the founder of the American Indian Dance Theatre and Professor in the Department of Theater at the University of California, Los Angeles. Geiogamah was chosen to address a number of issues with the previous script, historical inaccuracies, and a lack of Cherokee tribal participation in the cast. Geiogamah accepted this challenge, wrote a new script and produced a show. However, many tribal members were reportedly not fond of the new play version, as it removed much of the story telling and history of the Cherokee. He added more interpretive dance to help convey the story. In addition, many tribal members missed having the story of Tsali included in the play. He sacrificed his life so that the remainder of his Cherokee people could remain in North Carolina.

In 2007, Pat Allee and Ben Hurst wrote a new script. In 2008, changes were made by Linda West.[3] Fewer than 50,000 people saw the performance in summer 2009, about half the number from years ago. John Tissue, director of the Cherokee Historical Association, suggests economic problems as the reason for the reduced crowds. The 2010 production is credited to Linda Squirrel. Eddie Swimmer, a Cherokee, serves as director of the drama.[1] As of 2010, more than six million people have seen the production.

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