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Film explores how Cherokees make nature their partner

Robert Redhawk Eldridge is interviewed in 'Nature’s Wisdom Thru Native Eyes.'

What happens when storytelling, native wisdom and nature’s intelligence converge? A new film by award-winning documentary filmmaker David Weintraub and the Center for Cultural Preservation explores the answer in "Nature’s Wisdom Thru Native Eyes," which premieres this week.

“We were trying to stay connected to the natural world because we realized that everything that was connected to it thrived, so we understood that if we would stay connected to it, we would be prosperous as well,” said Cherokee elder, storyteller and mask-maker Davy Arch, one of several native elders featured in the film discussing how for more than 10,000 years storytelling connected the tribe to nature and to one another, the use of medicinal plants and how the native approach that focuses on finding connections can help all of us heal our broken relationship with the living world.

Weintraub elaborates that what struck him most of all while working with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and half a dozen other native tribes is their sophisticated approach in seeing the connections between history, culture and nature.

“In the western tradition, humans are considered to be at the top of the hierarchy, with animals and plants far below," he said. "But native people instead believe that since humans were the last to come and have the least experience on how to live, they must turn to plants and animals as their teachers. By looking at the living world that way, it transforms us and how we view the living world. Instead of nature being our conquest, it becomes our partner.”

Scientists participating in the film include Carl Safina, a New York Times bestselling author and nationally recognized wildlife ecologist  as well as local botanists Steve Pettis and Dave Coyle, who discuss the importance of learning from native wisdom and how it is an important way to reconnect ourselves to the living world.

“Native people understood that all the knowledge needed to survive and thrive was contained in the land and that their role was not to change it or control it but to learn from it,” Safina said.

What does film director Weintraub hope will be taken from his new film? “When we reestablish our relationship with the land as a sustaining force, as our grocery store, pharmacy and as our connection to both the past and the future, we truly become the stewards of creation that we were meant to be, connected to the wisdom of our ancestors who understood that history, culture, nature were all connected,” he said.

The film is made possible by the Community Foundation of Henderson County, Prestige Subaru, the Arts Council of Henderson County and North Carolina Humanities. The Center for Cultural Preservation is a cultural nonprofit organization dedicated to working for mountain heritage continuity through oral history, documentary film, education and public programs. For more information all 828-692-8062 or visit

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The film will be shown Thursday, June 29, at the Orange Peel in Asheville and Saturday, July 1, at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville. Starting time at both venues is 7:30 p.m. For tickets visit or call 828-692-8062. Ticketbuyers get $5 off the price of the DVD if they buy it in advance.