TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With quiet determination, 19 “Remember the Removal” cyclists pedaled up a long, steep hill on June 24 about two miles from Stilwell – the next-to-last stop of their nearly 1,000-mile journey retracing the northern route of the Trail of Tears.
On a hot day, the cyclists stared at the pavement or looked straight ahead as they quickly ascended the hill with legs strengthened by climbing mountains in Tennessee and rolling hills in Missouri. One of those riders, 37-year-old Kevin Tafoya, of the Wolftown Community in Cherokee, North Carolina, was a cyclist at the rear of the group, but still moved steadily up the hill. He was riding with his new “family” and would not quit nor let them down.
“I thought I was going to have a hard time matching faces to names, but now that we’ve ridden together, camped together, eaten together, it’s like you know everybody personally, all their little quirks. You can recognize them from behind and their riding style. It’s just like they’re family now,” Tafoya said.
He said if called upon when he gets home to speak about the three-week trip through seven states he would tell people the trip is mostly about remembrance.
“Just to remember what happened to our people and what they had to go through. We need to honor that memory and just keep it alive for our kids, so we know what our past is and how much we’ve been affected as a people,” he said.
Caleb Cox, 19, of Miami Oklahoma, said the ride’s last day was “surreal” and “emotional” for him as he anticipated riding into Tahlequah on June 25 with family and friends waiting on him.
“It’s really bittersweet. We’re all excited to see our families, but we also made another family here. It’s going to be really, really hard, but we’re excited and grateful,” he said. “Coming in I didn’t think that all of these people that I didn’t even know would become family. It’s kind of like those blessings in disguise I guess. I’ve learned a ton about our history and culture, and I’m just really blessed to be a part of the select few that were able to do this.”
He said now that he’s seen firsthand the graves, the tough terrain and other obstacles Cherokee people faced during the forced removals in 1838-39, it’s his and the other cyclists’ responsibility to share those stories and how they felt at those places with others.
The cyclists averaged 60 to 70 miles a day, and Cox said getting up early some mornings, at 5:30 or 6, was tough because the cyclists were always fatigued.
“It was the hardest thing, but then again when you’re sitting there you’re thinking ‘I’m blessed to be able to sleep in a bed, and I’m blessed to be able to rest.’ That’s what kept us going along with all the other riders, the support we had, and the kinship we gained on the ride. When we struggled, we helped each other out, and we just remembered our ancestors had it a lot worse,” he said.
Darius Thompson, 19, of the Wolftown Community, said the trip was life-changing, and he’s more appreciative of what his ancestors went through.
“Just being at the campsites and seeing it firsthand and seeing what they went through...it’s been an amazing journey. I know the true meaning of being Cherokee now,” he said. “Every day was something new. We had a tough time dealing with the heat. Some days I just wanted to fall over on my bike, but I looked over at my teammates and they were struggling with me, so that gave me strength to keep pedaling.”
“Remember the Removal” ride coordinator Joseph Erb also said the trip was a “life-changing experience” for the 12 Cherokee Nation and seven Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclists who started the ride June 7 in New Echota, Georgia.
“You know we travel those long distances and we run into lots of people who don’t know our story, and they’re living right on the trail. This crew represented you guys very well,” Erb said to the parents and family members at the return ceremony held June 25 on the Cherokee Courthouse Square. “It’s a painful journey, to not only learn the history, to see the places where our people perished. Cemeteries, sites, camps, we got to see all of that, and we’re honored and thank our nations for the support. These kids are better than when they left. They’ll be better for the rest of their lives for it.”
The other 2015 Remember the Removal cyclists are CN citizens Tristan Trumbla, 25, Tahlequah; Kayla Davis, 19, Stilwell; Tanner Crow, 19, Tahlequah; Charles “Billy” Flint, 25, Tahlequah; Shawna Harter, 18, Tahlequah; Maggie McKinnis, 16, Hulbert; Wrighter Weavel, 18, Tahlequah; Alexis Watt, 21, Monkey Island; Tennessee Loy, 22, Kenwood; Hailey Seago, 18, Claremore; and Haylee Caviness, 18, Tahlequah.
The other EBCI cyclists are Savannah Hicks, 21, Painttown Community; Corlee Thomas-Hill, 25, Yellowhill Community; Matthew Martens, 30, Yellowhill Community; Kelly Murphy, 25, Painttown Community; and Jake Stephens, 36, Birdtown Community.
The 2015 “Remember the Removal” ride is chronicled on Facebook at www.facebook.com/removal.ride.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission certified voting results from the June 27 general election during a special meeting on June 29.
Winners for the eight races in which a victor was declared are:
• Bill John Baker, principal chief,
• S. Joe Crittenden, deputy chief,
• Rex Jordan, Dist. 1,
• David Walkingstick, Dist. 3,
• Shawn Crittenden, Dist. 8,
• Dick Lay, Dist. 12,
• Buel Anglen, Dist. 13, and
• William “Bill” Pearson, Dist. 14
There will be two run-off elections slated for July 25. In the Dist. 6 Tribal Council race, Natalie Fullbright will face Bryan Warner. In the At-Large Tribal Council race, Wanda Claphan Hatfield will face Betsy Swimmer.
The EC will mail runoff absentee ballots July 13-14. Voters interested in early walk-in voting can do so from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18 and July 21- 23 at the Election Services Office in Tahlequah. Election day voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precincts inside the tribe’s jurisdiction.
The EC election timeline states the recount request deadline was 5 p.m. on July 1. Recounts were scheduled for July 2-3 with Supreme Court justices in attendance.
The election appeals deadline was July 6. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court was expected to hear any of those cases on July 7-9.
Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline.
For more information on the upcoming runoff elections, call 918-458-5899.
According to the EC, the June 27 election had 19,298 ballots cast out of 63,703 registered voters.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/6/9397_officialvotecount.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the official count document.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified election results, former Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen will return to the Tribal Council to fill the Dist. 13 seat.
Anglen, who previously served as Tribal Councilor from 2002-13, won the race with 63.67 percent of the votes at 517 votes. His opponent, Kenneth Holloway, had 36.33 percent or 295 votes.
Election Commission officials returned to the Election Services Office on June 28 to count challenged ballots and included them in the final unofficial results. The EC certified the results on June 29.
Anglen said, to be safe, he would wait until the challenged ballots were counted before commenting. He could not be reached at the time of publication.
Holloway, who conceded the race around 9 a.m. on June 28, congratulated Anglen and offered his support and prayers as Anglen moves into office. He also thanked his supporters.
“I want to thank God first and foremost, then my wife who is my biggest supporter and kept me going, my family and everyone who believed in me on this journey to become Dist. 13’s Tribal Councilor,” he said.
Dist. 13 covers most of the northeast Tulsa County and part of western Rogers County.
Inauguration day for elected officials is set for Aug. 14, according to the Cherokee Nation’s election timeline.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dist. 12 Tribal Councilor Dick Lay has retained his seat during the 2015 general election, according to certified election results from the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission.
Results show Lay, of Ochelata, received 61.18 percent of the votes with 446 ballots, while his opponent, Dora Smith Patzkowski, received 38.82 percent of the votes with 283 ballots.
Lay is expected to begin serving his second term on Aug. 14, the day when tribal elected officials are inaugurated.
“Feeling very humble, grateful and thankful today,” Lay said. “Thanks to my wife and family they have allowed me the time to have the privilege to serve the Cherokee people. Thanks to all of our family, friends, and supporters who made it happen. Old friends and new worked hard to get it done. God bless you all and God bless the Cherokee Nation.”
Patzkowski, of Bartlesville, could not be reached for comment before publication but said in an earlier statement her top legislative priority for the Dist. 12 was to improve health care and housing for CN citizens.
Dist. 12 includes Washington County and part of Tulsa, Rogers and Nowata counties.
The EC certified the general election results on June 29.