This week I have been honoured to be the guest of a Native American family and their tribe in Cherokee, North Carolina. We were taken to see a live theatre performance of a play entitled ‘Unto These Hills’. It told the story of how, in the 1830s, 16,000 Cherokee people were forced to move 800 miles because the white people and their armed forces had coerced them into giving up their homelands in the Appalachian Mountains. The routes they took for this enforced migration came to be known as ‘The Trail of Tears’. The play illustrated how families had to abandon their homes and face a long, harrowing journey that many did not survive. It was a story of disenfranchisement, dislocation, dispossession and oppression, a tragic and shameful episode of historic fact. However, the play ended on a positive note, with a strong message of resilience, emphasising that, despite this history of oppression, the Cherokee Nation has retained its culture and traditions, has rekindled the use of its language and reaffirmed a foundation of pride. Language, culture and identity can survive against the odds. In Wales, we express this idea in the title of a very important song: ‘Yma o Hyd’ (still here).
June 16, 2012