'Progression takes change': 'The Lost Colony' makes casting changes, brings in Native Americans

Ana Rivera Image
ByAna Rivera via WTVD logo
Thursday, November 10, 2022
'The Lost Colony' makes casting changes, brings in Native Americans
EMBED <>More Videos

For 85 years, the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island has taken the stage in front of thousands of people, but for first time that story is being told differently and throug

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For 85 years, the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island has taken the stage in front of thousands of people. The longest running outdoor symphonic drama continues to draw crowds to Manteo every season, but for first time that story is being told differently and through the eyes of Native American ancestors.

"The community at large...the world...needed to see a side of Natives that wasn't being expressed. It was important not to just be considered a 'merciless savage' like it's written in the Constitution," said Kayla Oxendine, Lost Colony cast member.

For the past two seasons, Oxendine, a member of the Lumbee tribe, dazzled audiences as the narrator of the Lost Colony.

"I told a story of basically the creation story and the story that led up to the settlers having first contact with the Natives," Oxendine said.

Oxendine's role is pivotal in the story of the Lost Colony which begins in 1587 when 117 English pioneers established the first settlement of its kind on Roanoke Island with John White, his pregnant daughter and British ally, the Indian Chief Manteo. White left the settlement to get supplies. When he returned to Roanoke Island three years later, he found the settlement deserted. He never saw his family again and to this day, it's still unclear what happened to the Natives and settlers.

Since 1937, actors have portrayed the story in the form of a play written by North Carolina native Paul Green.

"Except for four years during WWII and 2020 for COVID, it's been done every year since," said Chuck Still, Lost Colony Executive Director.

But it took 83 seasons to make major and necessary changes.

"There was non-natives playing historically Native roles. There was not the appropriate use of Coastal Algonquin language. A lot of it was adlibbed. And there were not historically accurate dances, and songs that were being performed," said Kaya Littleturtle, Lost Colony cultural advisor.

More than a decade ago, Littleturtle acted in the Lost Colony. At the time he was the only Native American portraying a Native in the play. Now he's working with the production and casting others from more than 11 Native tribes.

"Being in the show, it advocates and educates people. If one person can take something back and share a positive thought about the show. They are real. They're here. We are still here," said Catherine Ammons, Lost Colony cast member.

Still here and still proud to tell the stories of their ancestors.

"This has been a huge opportunity for education. So for us it's a matter of going from very invisible in mainstream to a point of visibility," Littleturtle said.

"Progression takes change. And I had to be the change that I wanted to see in the world. I had to be the change that I wanted to see for my people," Oxendine said.

The 27th Annual American Indian Heritage celebration will take place at the state Museum of History in downtown Raleigh on Saturday, November 19th. The Lost Colony will hold auditions for Native roles in the upcoming season.