The idea of producing a documentary film is daunting. It’s hard to explain, but GOING2WATER… or the concept of it – the idea, the epiphany – birthed itself.

Let me explain…

Shari Shooting

I began to move my creativity into video about three years before my youngest daughter, Emily, graduated from high school and left for college. It was Emily who nudged me into video as a creative platform with her own self-shot video projects showing her dirt bike stunts. Until then, I had focused on photojournalism, as I’d been a working reporter for about 25 years.

I am also mixed blood (like every other person walking the planet… but there’s a lot more to that story…) I am Cherokee and Choctaw through my mother. Scottish “white bread” through my father.

The Indian Removal Period has always attracted my attention. It’s this horrid beacon of hate and greed that I’ve delved into. It really is complex and I’ve found in my research and reading that it literally elicits hatefulness and resentment. But, that’s where I stopped and took notice.


Hate and resentment are powerful, heavy and dark. I looked closer at what it has done to the various Cherokee sub-tribes. (Yes, sub-tribes… which will also be a focal point of the documentary research project.) And I wondered, as a mixed blood, what I could do to help heal it.

I understand how pretentious this may sound. “Healing my people” is about as preposterous as claiming to be descended from a full blooded Cherokee Indian Princess. First, Cherokee women were not princesses. Second, as a mixed blood not recognized by any faction of the Cherokee tribe, I am viewed as a nosy interloper. This actually frees me to tell the whole story as I experience it.


I am a Storyteller. In the Native American realm, we are called the Twisted Hair people. We belong to no particular tribe. Stories come through us. Stories tell themselves. A good storyteller becomes the vessel, a pipe, a portal – not a megaphone.

GOING2WATER is the story of crossing the various Cherokee Trail(s) of Tears today. The initial concept was to cross each of the trail sections in REVERSE, documenting the experience as it happens. This is possible with the exception of the 1,400-mile Trail of Tears Water Route, which crosses five rivers from Tennessee to Oklahoma.

The entire Indian Removal period was more than the U.S. government removal of indigenous tribes from their eastern tribal lands to the desolate western plains of Oklahoma. The Removal was genocide. The Spirit of the Offense still exists. It is embedded in the land and water routes where First Nations people suffered and died. The essence of this is illustrated effectively and elegantly in “Ghost Paths,” a documentary photography project by London based photographer, Elizabeth Waight.

Ghost Paths 1

London-based Documentary Photojournalist Elizabeth Waight embarked on a project to illustrate the Spirit of the People whose essence remain as part of the land. Ghost Paths includes images taken on sections of the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears was given the name because of the horrific loss of human life of many Native American people, not just the Cherokee. This is a part of the story, too.


As I started planning the GOING2WATER journey, I was often asked what it was that I was doing, and why. Fair question, really. I would begin talking about the Trail of Tears and often younger people would look confused and stop me. This even happened with older people, as well – people in their 30s and 40s. They would say, “Now, what is that? The ‘Trail of Tears’”? This made me realize how little many people know about the Indian Removal Period.

How could such a horrible period of history and human suffering in the United States fade from memory? I would say the same about the U.S. period of Slavery and Slave Trade. How CAN we forget these things? How can we NOT remember them, hopefully so the same genocide is not reenacted?


As part of the GOING2WATER project, I’ll be creating middle- and high school multi-media curriculum modules that will be available online to both public school teachers and the homeschooling community.

The GOING2WATER documentary film project will include various segments on each individual trail crossing, including the little known Cherokee Trail of Tears water route – 1,400 miles across five rivers. I’ll be crossing the rivers via handmade sea kayak. It’s the segment I’m currently training and preparing for.


The GOING2WATER project will likely take from 3 to 5 years to complete. However, as the project evolves there will be milestones, with film segments, and curriculum modules created and released.

I have already received a great deal of support and advice from others. And for that I am exceedingly grateful.

If you’d like to BE A PART OF MY TRIBE and support the GOING2WATER project, watch for the KICKSTARTER crowdfunding campaign. I’ll post them and let you know what’s happening.

You can sign up via email for news of the journey, including dispatches from the field.

Let me know your thoughts! Do you have ideas about where I should go and who I should talk to? Let me know!!

ᏩᏙ (Wado)

One thought on “Going2Water

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s