A still of Irene Bedard and Wes Studi from "Edge of America," a 2003 TV movie made for Showtime.

Wes Studi and Irene Bedard Lend Star Power to Colonial Williamsburg's 'Return of the Cherokee'

Vincent Schilling
7/14/12

Best known for his movie roles in Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo and box-office blockbuster Avatar, acclaimed Native actor Wes Studi will be appearing in a live Colonial Williamsburg production entitled "The Beloved Woman" on Saturday, July 21st at 7pm as part of a 5-day "Return of the Cherokee" program in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Native Actress Irene Bedard, who served as the voice and model for Pocahontas and Pocahontas II, will guest star with Studi to lead an all-Native cast for the presentation that portrays the Cherokees' fight to protect their homelands in the midst of war between American and British forces in Virginia. Studi will be playing Cherokee headman Attakullakulla, who comes to Williamsburg with his niece, Nanyehi, to broker a peace agreement with Patrick Henry, the governor of the fledgling Virginia Commonwealth.

Following "The Beloved Woman," members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee will share stories and dances during a "Friends and Brethren" program.

According to Jim Bradley, Communications Manager at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the inclusion of Native people at Williamsburg is an important part of history.

"The story of how America began is an inclusive story that includes people of European descent, Native descent, African descent and how all of that pans out into the country that we are today -- it helps to understand the beginnings also,” says Bradley.

Warriors of Ani Kituhwa

Running a total of five days, "Return of the Cherokee" begins on Wednesday, July 18th in order to include the Eastern Band of Cherokees' "Camp of the Cherokee," held from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 2–4 p.m. Saturday at the Magazine in the Revolutionary City. There visitors will find simulated Cherokee camps and accommodations where Cherokee men and women rested, cooked and repaired packs and moccasins.

It's a hugely popular spectacle, Bradley says: "We've done Camp of the Cherokee on a regular basis, twice a year, and it tends to draw a huge crowd. In the past, these Saturdays and Sundays have been jammed. The dance program also gets plenty of spectators. I think people come here, and maybe they don't expect to see Native culture, and they are pleasantly surprised. They say, 'Wow, here is something extra.'"

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian’s Warriors of Ani Kituhwa "Return of the Cherokee: A Public Dance" at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 22 on Palace Green.

Other presentations include a talk by British imperial history scholar Dr. John Oliphant, who will discuss the Cherokee delegation that traveled to London in 1762, R. Scott Stephenson’s "The Indian Fashion: Getting Dressed in 18th Century Native America," and "The Cherokee War Dance: From Timberlake to the Twenty-First Century," by Barbara Duncan, Ph.D., folklorist and education director at North Carolina’s Museum of the Cherokee Indian. All of those events will take place at Hennage Auditorium during the week.

Bradley says that not only is the week successful in Colonial Williamsburg, but the model has served to bring Native history to other institutions. "I have been here 23 years, and I wish I kept a list of all the people who used to work for us who are working for similar institutions across the country. They're introducing or have introduced the kinds of programming that we have been doing for decades."

For more information, directions and scheduling, visit the Cherokee Week page at ColonialWilliamsburg.com.

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