Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Joshua Catalano

Committee Member

Dr. Douglas Seefeldt

Committee Member

Dr. Pamela Mack


This thesis covers the development of the tourism industry surrounding the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian in Western North Carolina, specifically the evolution of the outdoor historical drama Unto These Hills written by Kermit Hunter. The chapters to follow examine the development of the production in conjunction with the broader historical context, analyze Kermit Hunter’s original script contextualizing the material and Hunter’s narrative choices, and elucidate the history and representation of one of the production’s protagonists. All of this to demonstrate not only the misrepresentation and inaccuracy of the original production, but to discuss the production’s role on the reservation today. As other historians have argued, the installation of the tourism economy in the 1930s-40s was exploitative and undoubtedly altered the way Americans have come to understand and interact with Cherokee history and culture, and the people themselves. It is true that the economic realities the Band was placed in were designed by those with little care for historical accuracy or for the preservation and protection of the Cherokee people. When the tribe took over the Cherokee Historical Association, the entity responsible for the production, the tribe gained control of the narrative which had defined them for over fifty years. They tried creating entirely new narratives around which to center their public facing identity. They have chosen, however, to return to a narrative which was once used to silence their voices. They have reclaimed Kermit Hunter’s Unto These Hills, reclaimed the heroic figure of Tsali, and reclaimed the agency which was stripped from them in the creation of the original production. Through its careful analysis, this thesis argues that authenticity and historical accuracy is defined by the people represented by the display of public memory, and though the story may be littered with questions and curiosities, it is the Cherokee story to tell.



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