TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The 2014 Remember the Removal bike riders departed the Cherokee Nation, officially beginning a three-week journey to retrace their ancestors’ path along the Trail of Tears.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and tribal leaders held a special send-off ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex to wish the riders a prosperous journey and safe return.
The 13 Cherokee Nation riders will meet up with six riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina. The group will start the ride in New Echota, Georgia, on June 1 and travel seven states on bicycles before ending the 950-mile journey in Oklahoma June 19.
The ride, which originated 30 years ago, is a leadership program allowing Cherokee students to get a glimpse of the hardships their Cherokee ancestors faced while making the same trek on foot.
“A comprehensive genealogy was completed for every rider and staff making the trip. As they learn more about their own family, the universal Cherokee experience becomes much more personal for them,” Chief Baker said. “These riders will live out an exceptional experience over the next three weeks that will bond them forever. It is physically demanding and can be emotionally draining, but completing the trip will be a spiritual reward in and of itself. Just as our ancestors were 175 years ago, these young Cherokee people will be responsible for each other on this journey.”
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the final group of Cherokees forced from their homes in Georgia and Tennessee and other southeastern states to the tribe’s current capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, an estimated 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease.
“The Remember the Removal ride not only commemorates this important event in our people’s history, but it is an opportunity for our youth to learn more about our history,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “Our riders are a true cross-section of our tribal community, and this experience offers a means for them to connect across generations and to learn from one another about our history.”
The riders from Cherokee Nation are Charli Barnoskie, Cassie Moore, Keeley Godwin, Adriana Collins, Noah Collins, Chance Rudolph, Jordan McLaren, Elizabeth Burns, Zane Scullawl, Madison Taylor, Jamekah Rios, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes and Jacob Chavez.
The riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are Patricia Watkins, Richard Sneed, Ty Bushyhead, Kelsey Owl, Russell Bigmeat and Katrina Sneed.
Follow the riders along the journey at www.facebook.com/removal.ride or with the Twitter hashtag #RememberTheRemoval.