UT Dallas to Host Debut of PBS ‘Trail of Tears’ Film

Professor Who Was Adviser to Series Will Join Panel Discussion at Premiere

March 6, 2009

The story of Saturday, May 26, 1838, a day which began an event the Cherokees would call Nu-No-Du-Na-Tlo-Hi-Lu, “The Trail Where They Cried,” will be told from a new perspective at the premiere of “Trail of Tears” at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, in the Davidson Auditorium at the School of Management.

We Shall Remain logo
Production background information is available on the PBS We Shall Remain site.

The third film in the five-part We Shall Remain series produced by PBS’ American Experience, “Trail of Tears” takes a new look at the United States government’s forced removal of thousands of Cherokees from their homes in the Southeastern United States, driving them toward Indian Territory in Eastern Oklahoma.

Admission is free; seating is first come, first served. The film premiere will be followed by a panel discussion with We Shall Remain executive producer Sharon Grimberg; Native American filmmaker Chris Eyre; and series adviser Dr. R. David Edmunds, the UT Dallas Anne and Chester Watson Professor in American History.

For years, the Cherokee had resisted removal from their land in every way they knew. Convinced that white America rejected Native Americans because they were “savages,” Cherokee leaders established a republic with a Euro-American style legislature and legal system.

Many Cherokees became Christians and adopted Westernized education for their children. Their visionary principal chief, John Ross, would even take the Cherokees’ case to the Supreme Court, where he won a crucial recognition of tribal sovereignty that still resonates.

Though in the end the Cherokees’ embrace of “civilization” and their landmark legal victory proved no match for white land hunger and military power, the Cherokee people were able to build a new life in Oklahoma, far from the land that had sustained them for generations.

Edmunds, who is of Cherokee descent, is proud to be a part of the We Shall Remain crew because the series breaks with typical portrayals of Native Americans.

“The thing that sets the We Shall Remain series apart is its ability to get away from two of the biggest stereotypes of Native Americans: the Indian as a warrior and the Indian as a victim,” said Edmunds. “The portrayal of warfare between Native Americans and whites is abandoned for a view of the very civilized, very adaptive ways of the Cherokees, as they try to assimilate to imported culture in order to remain on their lands.

“Additionally, when you see ‘Trail of Tears,’ you’ll see Native Americans as actors in their own destiny. You’ll see them make decisions, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t, but it’s all part of the American experience.”

“Trail of Tears” is presented by the UT Dallas School of Arts & Humanities and PBS’American Experience. For more information on the UT Dallas premiere, visit ah.utdallas.edu.


More Information: School of Arts and Humanities, UT Dallas, http://ah.utdallas.edu
Media Contact:  Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, 972-883-4329, karah.hosek@utdallas.edu

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Trail of Tears depiction
The Cherokee were driven from their homeland to eastern Oklahoma. (Illustration: B. Charlo/Kalispel Nation)


Dr. R. David Edmunds will take part in a panel discussion following the premiere of Trail of Tears.
Dr. R. David Edmunds

 

About Dr. R. David Edmunds


Dr. Edmunds is the recipient of one of the most distinguished awards in the field of history, the Francis Parkman Prize, which recognizes outstanding nonfiction historical writing.

He has written or edited 10 books, including The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire, which won the Parkman Prize in 1978, and The Shawnee Prophet, awarded the Ohioana Prize for Biography in 1984; and co-authored The Fox Wars: The Mesquakie Challenge to New France, which received the Heggoy Prize from the French Colonial Historical Society.

Edmunds has received prestigious fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Newberry Library, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has won five teaching awards from four separate universities. 

He has consulted with museums, film makers and tribal governments engaged in land disputes against state and local governments.  Edmunds received his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma.

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