|dc.description.abstract||This dissertation compares the historical development of the Cherokee Historical Association’s (CHA) Unto These Hills (1950) in Cherokee, North Carolina, and the Cherokee Heritage Center’s (CHC) The Trail of Tears (1968) in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Unto These Hills and The Trail of Tears were originally commissioned to commemorate the survivability of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the Cherokee Nation (CN) in light of nineteenth-century Euramerican acts of deracination and transculturation. Kermit Hunter, a white southern American playwright, wrote both dramas to attract tourists to the locations of two of America’s greatest events. Hunter’s scripts are littered, however, with misleading historical narratives that tend to indulge Euramerican jingoistic sympathies rather than commemorate the Cherokees’ survivability.
It wasn’t until 2006/1995 that the CHA in North Carolina and the CHC in Oklahoma proactively shelved Hunter’s dramas, replacing them with historically “accurate” and culturally sensitive versions. Since the initial shelving of Hunter’s scripts, Unto These Hills and The Trail of Tears have undergone substantial changes, almost on a yearly basis. Artists have worked to correct the romanticized notions of Cherokee-Euramerican history in the dramas, replacing problematic information with more accurate and culturally specific material. Such modification has been and continues to be a tricky endeavor: the process of improvement has triggered mixed reviews from touristic audiences and from within Cherokee communities themselves.
While outdoor drama is intimately linked with Euramerican touristic expectations, of which themes of faith and patriotism are most prominent, and while many outdoor dramas continue to perpetuate an out-of-date “American Imaginary,” Unto These Hills and The Trail of Tears are among the few outdoor dramas to vigorously contest, reconsider, and refigure Native American identities on the outdoor stage, as well as champion Native American sovereignty and cultural autonomy. While the CHA’s and the CHC’s outdoor dramas are dilemmatic and bound by impervious market-driven conventions, this dissertation demonstrates how the frequent revision of Unto These Hills and The Trail of Tears is better understood as an exploration of the intersections between Cherokee epistemologies and theatrical praxis.||