When the United States government decided that the presence of Indian tribes was an inconvenience to be solved and passed the Indian Removal Act, leading to the deaths and displacement of over 60,000 people between 1830 and 1850 in what came to be known as the Trail of Tears, some tribes successfully circumvented the sweep. Deep in the mountains of western North Carolina, for instance, many Cherokee fled into the Smokey Mountains, sheltering in the forests for months before returning to their homes after the soldiers had departed. The descendants of these people still live in their ancestral homes, many of them forming the traditional community of Snowbird.
This program, the only documentary focused on the lives and culture of the Snowbird Cherokee community, examines real stories and struggles of a modern Native American community on the fringes of everything, from both personal and collective perspectives. There is a distinct duality to many issues they face: fair representation in local elections and wider tribal elections, preservation of culture and language versus putting on a profitable show for tourists, education in modern methods while also teaching the youth the importance of their heritage, and much more.
- 2023 saw the 37th annual Snowbird Fading Voices Festival, a celebration of Eastern Band Cherokee traditions that was much newer at the time this documentary was made.