Unto These Hills Cherokee Theatre – Cherokee, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura
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Cherokee, North Carolina

Unto These Hills Cherokee Theatre

Some North Carolina Cherokee have been keeping their history alive for decades with a single play. 

Since 1950, members of the local Cherokee tribe and actors from the University of North Carolina drama department have been performing Unto These Hills at the Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina, the town of Cherokee is the traditional home of the eastern branch of the Cherokee tribe, and the town retains much of its original culture, including road signs written in the Cherokee language and script. Although many of the attractions are kitschy and aimed at tourists, there are a number of authentic cultural destinations to seek out. Foremost among them is the Mountainside Theatre. Every year, from June through August, a nightly production of Unto These Hills is performed in an outdoor ampitheatre built into a forested hillside. The play tells the story of the “Trail of Tears,” in which over 16,000 eastern Native Americans were forcibly relocated to locations west of the Mississippi River. In addition to the drama, traditional music and dance is also featured at the theatre.

The nearby Oconaluftee Indian Village and Museum of the Cherokee Indian are also worth a visit, and are located close to the theatre. Cinema buffs may recognize the town from the surreal final scene in Werner Herzog’s “Stroszek.”