Dean delves into Cherokee War in new book‘A Demand of Blood’ coming to the stage
As a photographer, filmmaker and journalist, Nadia Dean knows how to uncover a story worth telling.
Her latest investigation comes in the form of a historical narrative about the Cherokee War of 1776. It is the story of how the American Revolution played out in the backcountry between Cherokees and colonials. While the settlers fought for freedom against the British, the Cherokee fought for freedom against intruding immigrants.
“A Demand of Blood” took about eight years to complete, but Dean, who lives in Cherokee, said she never lost her passion for the story.
“This book came about through having a deep interest in my family history,” she said.
While conducting genealogy research and learning more about the time period from her cousin Charles Miller, a local historian in Waynesville, the more interested she became in it. She also learned that no one had written a book about the people involved in the Cherokee War as the Revolutionary War overshadowed it.
Most writers who take on a historical piece have a vast body of existing catalogs of research to work with, but not Dean. She had to create a unique body of research because she was the first. She tracked down British Indian Department papers, pension statements, diaries and other hard-to-find correspondence. It took her two years to collect, transcribe and annotate the data collected.
“It was a daunting task, but the story is so fascinating and that’s what kept me going,” she said.
She felt a deep fascination with the remarkable men from the time period, Alexander Cameron, a British agent for the Cherokee, and Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe. Many of the history books gloss over these men and Dean wanted to add their story to the records.
The book has been released, but Dean isn’t done. The book inspired her to revisit her musical talents. She learned piano as a child and began composing her own music, but it’s something that she had on the backburner for many years as she pursued other aspects of her career.
But when she started working on “A Demand of Blood,” she decided she needed to buy a piano and compose music again. Now she has a complete soundtrack inspired by events in the book.
“It’s not something I set out to do, but every time I sat down at the piano the music came out. It was a real surprise,” she said.
Most of the music is instrumental and described by Dean as sweeping and dramatic. But there is one song, a soft ballad, that Dean said just didn’t fit with her voice when she tried to record it. Dean said when her mother heard the song, she immediately said she should get Shelia K. Adams to record the song for her.
“I sent her the song and she was immediately touched by it,” she said. “It’s about a woman who is waiting for her love to return to her after a long winter.”
So with Adams’ recording of the song, the soundtrack is complete.
Dean received a grant from The Graham Foundation in South Carolina to produce a 53-minute drama centered around the life of Alexander Cameron. Cameron came to the states from Scotland with nothing. He quickly earned status but lost it just as quickly during the conflict.
“This is the untold story of what was going on on the other side of the revolution,” Dean said. While the primary conquerors like George Washington receive so much of the coverage in the history books, Dean finds the common man far more colorful and interesting. “Cameron was the American dream and how quickly it all slipped away for him — it’s a lesson for all of us in it.”
The drama will be filmed in Greenville, South Carolina in November before Dean will take it on the road throughout the Southeast along with a book talk and presentations. She is in the process now of casting actors for the production, writing scripts and finding a crew to manage the show behind the scenes.
In her mind, she can already see her book playing out on the silver screen or at least a mini series for television. Unlike many Hollywood films today, Dean said “A Demand of Blood” would offer a gripping story with a glimpse of hope at the end.
“So many Hollywood films don’t serve the story. They serve the producer’s own agenda and you feel like you wasted two hours for nothing,” Dean said. “It’s amazing to me the movies that get made when there’s so many wonderful stories that do offer a tale of redemption or hope.”
Several producers she has spoken to all think it would make a great film. The History Channel initially seemed interested four years ago, but Dean’s pitch was turned down because the producers didn’t think they’d get the numbers they needed. But with the book’s success and the upcoming theatrical production, it’s only a matter of time before someone jumps at the chance to make it into a film.
Dean grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and studied film and photography at the University of South Carolina. Having a Lebanese father and an American mother exposed her to cross cultural life.
In Jerusalem, she was the still photographer for the PBS documentary “Days of Rage” and her photographs of the Palestinian uprising were published in Time magazine, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Dean also served as a daily news correspondent reporting from the White House and the State Department for Emirates Dubai Television.
To purchase the book or to read more about Dean, visit www.nadia.net.
Ron Swain, Spartanburg Regional History Museum