Published March 14, 2016
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA –The Cherokee Nation selected 10 cyclists for its 2016 Remember the Removal Bike Ride this June. The ride allows young Cherokees to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears by bicycle from Cherokee homelands in the Southeast to present-day Oklahoma, the ending point of the trail.
The participants, ages 16-24, started training this month for the three-week journey, which starts in New Echota, Georgia, on June 5.
“It’s totally worth all this,” said Amber Anderson, 23, who was born with her left leg 2 inches longer than her right and was told she’d never walk. “I never imagined being able to do this. It’s very special to me and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
She defied the odds. She now drives from Oklahoma City each weekend to train.
The Remember the Removal Bike Ride is a 950-mile journey that spans Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. This year, students were selected based on essays, interviews and a physical to ensure they were up for the grueling challenge.
“Being selected to participate in the Remember the Removal Bike Ride is an honor for these young tribal citizens. It will be a physical challenge, no doubt, but the reward is immense,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “They will get a unique education in the history of our tribe and learn just how strong our ancestors were as they trekked to modern-day Oklahoma. The bonds they form with the other riders on this annual trip are deep and long lasting, and it’s something the participants will always cherish.”
The Cherokee Nation cyclists will be joined by seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from North Carolina for the ride.
They travel an average of 60 miles a day for three weeks, mirroring in part the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears.
“I wanted to go on the bike ride to learn more about the trail my ancestors took,” said Muldrow High School sophomore Blayn Workman. “Schools teach about the Treaty of New Echota but not the entire Trail of Tears history.”
A genealogist will map out each rider’s family tree prior to the trip, providing them with an insight into their ancestral past. The ride takes them to several Cherokee gravesites and historic landmarks, including Blythe’s Ferry in Tennessee, the westernmost edge of the old Cherokee Nation, and Mantle Rock in Kentucky, where Cherokees huddled together for warmth under a hanging rock, the only shelter they could find during a frigid winter.
The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony at 9 a.m., Tuesday, May 31, at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The cyclists will drive to North Carolina to connect with the Eastern Band riders and then together start the ride June 5.
For more information on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride and photos, visitwww.remembertheremoval.cherokee.org and www.facebook.com/removal.ride.
The 2016 Remember the Removal Bike Ride cyclists are:
Kyla Holmes, 16, Bunch, Sequoyah High School
Kylar Trumbla, 23, Proctor, University of Central Oklahoma alumnus
Amicia Craig, 24, Tahlequah, Connors State College
Stephanie Hammer, 24, Tahlequah, Northeastern State University
Nikki Lewis, 23, Tahlequah, Tabor College alumnus
Kelsey Girty, 21, Warner, Northeastern State University
Rikki Ross, 17, Fort Gibson, Fort Gibson High School
Blayn Workman, 16, Muldrow, Muldrow High School
Amber Anderson, 23, Warr Acres, North Dakota State University
Glendon VanSandt, 16, Siloam Springs, Arkansas, home school