Eleven Cherokee Nation cyclists left Tahlequah on Tuesday morning on a great adventure.
Their trip will consist of cycling 950 miles over a three-week period to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears.
Before embarking on the ride to Oklahoma, they will meet up with 10 cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina. They will take part in cultural activities and team-building exercises and will then begin their ride in New Echota, Georgia, on June 2. They are expected to arrive in Tahlequah on June 20.
The trip gives participants the chance to learn about Cherokee Nation history, language and culture and get a taste of the hardships their ancestors faced while making the journey on foot in 1838-39. Although the ride is by choice, Cherokee ancestors had no choice when they were forced from their home in southeastern states. Of the 16,000 who made the journey to Indian Territory, about 4,000 died along the way from disease, starvation and exposure to the elements.
The ride also gives participants a chance to look at themselves — they will find out what they're capable of. It won't be an easy trip. Hot days on the roads, traffic to contend with, pushing to complete miles with one goal in mind — getting home.
The 2019 Remember the Removal participants include Destiny Matthews and Elizabeth Hummingbird, of Adair County; Joshua Chavez, Brooke Bailey, Kayli Gonzales, Ashley Hunnicutt and Steven Shade, of Cherokee County; Sydnie Pierce, of Mayes County; and Shadow Hardbarger, of Sequoyah County. Kevin Stretch, the interim director of Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach, and Marie Eubanks, a teaching assistant at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, are this year’s mentor riders.
These individuals deserve our applause and respect for keeping history alive and undertaking such a feat.
For more information on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride or to follow along during the journey, visit www.facebook.com/removal.ride and watch for the #RTR2019 and #RTR35 hashtags on the official Cherokee Nation Twitter (@CherokeeNation) and Instagram (@TheCherokeeNation).