first in a series of School of Communications teacher/scholar research
presentations took place in March, when Ray Johnson shared a film
he produced, directed and edited.
The Survival of the Circle" tells the story of a group of Native
Americans who have lived in the region just north of Elon for hundreds
At the time
of the first Europeans' arrival in what is now the United States,
the Occaneechi tribe's home was an island on the Roanoke River in
Virginia, where they exercised control over trade throughout the
region. When Nathaniel Bacon led a violent rebellion there in May
of 1676, the Occaneechi people were scattered for a time. They settled
near Hillsborough, N.C., then spent the next century moving between
Virginia and North Carolina. In the early 1800s, they settled in
an area of North Carolina that eventually became known as Pleasant
Grove, in the northeast corner of Alamance County.
now think of Pleasant Grove - sometimes called "Little Texas"
- as their home. By the 1940s they had been assimilated on many
levels and they didn't have much left of their culture. They are
working today to reconstruct their tribal language, which was partly
lost, and they are also buying back some of the land where their
ancestors settled in North Carolina. A recently purchased 28-acre
Alamance County site has been earmarked for the development of an
Occaneechi history center.
It is estimated
that between 600 and 1,000 Occaneechi remain today. The tribe was
recognized as a distinct group by the State of North Carolina in
2001, after mounting a 10-year struggle for recognition.
Occaneechi historian Forest Hazel and tribal chairman Tony Hayes
were instrumental in his project. Hazel also co-wrote the documentary.
He and/or Hayes accompanied Johnson and his crew as they gathered
most of the interviews for the film. Johnson spent the many long
months on the project, building the trust of the people of Pleasant
Grove and doing background research.
took about 18 months from start to finish. Johnson finally had more
than 20 hours of digital video, storing at least eight hours of
video on his firewire drive. He edited the video on a laptop, using
Final Cut Pro software. Production of the film was a team effort,
involving the Occaneechi leaders and Elon students, faculty members
and staff members.
Gerald Gibson took digital photos of historic heirloom photographs
of Occaneechi people that were incorporated in the film. Faculty
member Don Grady, a Native American, narrates. Staff members J.
McMerty and Bryan Baker worked on video and sound production. Students
Erin Cooper, Jillian Baer, Scott Myrick and Jennifer Sposato played
important roles during the production phases of the project.
this 31-minute film is the first of three he will produce about
the Occaneechi. "There is so much there to tell," he said
"It's all about the circle of life."