(L to R) Front: Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis, Remember the Removal Riders Hailey Seago, Maggie McKinnis, Alexis Watt, Charles “Billy” Flint, Wrighter Weavel, Shawna Harter, Kayla Davis, Haylee Caviness and Tristan Trumbla, and Deputy Executive Director of Education Services Bruce Davis. Back: Remember the Removal Coordinator Joseph Erb, Rider Tennessee Loy, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Executive Director of Education Services and Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, and Riders Caleb Cox and Tanner Crow.
Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians riders to cycle 950 miles across seven states
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — The 2015 Remember the Removal bike riders departed the Cherokee Nation Wednesday after a special send-off ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Complex, officially beginning a three-week journey to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears.
The 12 Cherokee Nation riders will meet up with seven riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina. The group will start the ride in New Echota, Georgia, on June 7 and cycle across seven states before ending the 950-mile journey in Oklahoma on June 25.
“The Remember the Removal project ensures our tribe’s future leaders never forget our past or the sacrifices our ancestors made,” said Cherokee nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This annual bike ride from Georgia to Oklahoma is mentally and physically demanding, and I admire these young people for taking on such a challenge. Over the years, I have seen time and time again how each of the ride participants comes away with a richer understanding of what our ancestors experienced in 1839 along the Trail of Tears. In short order, these riders will become a team and learn to rely on one another, while growing physically, emotionally and even spiritually as an individual.”
The ride originated more than 30 years ago as a leadership program that offered Cherokee students a glimpse of the hardships their ancestors faced while making the same trek on foot.
In the summer of 1838, Cherokees were rounded up and forced from their homes in Georgia, 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.
“I carry a photo of my third great-grandmother, Sallie Mitilla Harlan, who was only 3 years old when she came over on the Trail of Tears,” 2015 Remember the Removal cyclist Charles “Billy” Flint said. “I think about how her earliest memories must be from the trail, and I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like. So I’m carrying her photo because this is the journey she took, and she didn’t have a choice. I had a choice, and I chose to do this ride to honor her and everyone else who was forced on the removal.”
The riders from Cherokee Nation are Flint, Tristan Trumbla, Kayla Davis, Haylee Caviness, Tanner Crow, Shawna Harter, Maggie McKinnis, Wrighter Weavel, Caleb Cox, Alexis Watt, Tennessee Loy and Hailey Seago.
The riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are Kelly Murphy, Jake Stephens, Corlee Thomas-Hill, Kevin Tafoya, Darius Thompson, Savannah Hicks and Matt Martens.
Follow the riders along the journey at www.facebook.com/removal.ride or with the Twitter hashtag #RememberTheRemoval. The riders will also travel through the following cities and states during these dates:
June 7 – New Echota to Cleveland, Tennessee
June 8 – Cleveland to Dayton
June 9 – Dayton to Pikeville
June 10 – Pikeville to Woodbury
June 11 – Woodbury to Joelton/Nashville
June 12 – Joelton/Nashville to Hopkinsville, Kentucky
June 13 – Hopkinsville to Metropolis, Illinois
June 14 – Metropolis to Cape Girardeau, Missouri
June 16 – Cape Girardeau to Farmington
June 17 – Farmington to Steelville
June 18 – Steelville to St. Roberts
June 19 – St. Roberts to Lebanon
June 20 – Lebanon to Springfield
June 22 – Springfield to Cassville
June 23 – Cassville to Springdale, Arkansas
June 24 – Springdale to Stilwell, Oklahoma
June 25 – Stilwell to Tahlequah