If you only have time to take in one attraction while you are in Cherokee, NC, that one attraction needs to be Unto These Hills. This show has been part of the attraction scene in Cherokee for more then sixty years and it is the second oldest running outdoor drama in the US. Combining the story of the Cherokee people, the music and sounds of the mountains and of course all of it under the stars in the Smoky Mountains, this action packed presentation has been bringing the people back year after year.
Unto These Hills opened to a crowd in Cherokee, NC on July 1, 1950. Since that time, the show has run at the Mountainside Theater from June through August each year. And though the script and the information has changed some over the years, the power of this drama has not changed at all. Focusing on the people that called the Smokies home, Kermit Hunter, the original author was hoping to capture the spirit of these noble people that refused to be forced out of their land and stayed, even though they were told to walk the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.
The story starts with the people that lived in the Smokies before the European setters came. It tells a story of a cultured, civilized people that embraced their new neighbors from across the ocean. They helped the settlers that came to the area and though some of the leaders realized that the Europeans were not going to reciprocate the good feelings, they still helped the white man establish their towns. Over time, as the Cherokee lost land and were forced higher into the mountains, Andrew Jackson – President of the United States – decreed that they would be removed to a reservation in Oklahoma. Some of the Cherokee decided that they would not leave. They stayed, hidden in the mountains until a time when they could be embraced by a different attitude and government. All of this history and the culture of the Cherokee is contained inside this wonderful outdoor drama.
Since 1950, Unto These Hills has been performed in the same theater – the Mountainside Theater above Cherokee. It is located in the same place as the Oconaluftee Indian Village, in fact they share a parking lot. This 2800 seat amphitheater is all outdoors but the temperate weather in the Smokies and the elevation make it pleasant outside for all of the performances.
Next time you are in Cherokee, NC, or just on the North Carolina side of the Smokies, call ahead and make reservations. Take the whole family to Unto These Hills, let them learn some American history, let them get a better appreciation for the people that lived in the Smokies before Europeans settlers came to the area and of course, remember that you are seeing a show that has been running since the middle of the 20th century.
Unto These Hills
688 Drama Road