Remember the Removal bike rider Tighe Wachacha celebrates on June 20 as he crosses into Oklahoma from Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cyclists return after retracing Trail of Tears

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians rider Marvel Welch of Cherokee, N.C., center, helps lead the Remember the Removal riders on June 21 into Tahlequah, Okla. At 53, Welch was oldest rider. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Friends and family greet LaTasha Atcity of Tahlequah on June 21 as she enters the Cherokee Courthouse Square in Tahlequah, Okla., during a welcoming ceremony for the Remember the Removal bike riders who retraced the northern route of the Trail of Tears. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclist Hilary Gallegos, right, rides into the Cherokee Courthouse Square during a welcoming ceremony on June 21 for 22 Cherokee riders who retraced the Trail of Tears on the 175th anniversary of the forced removal. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, N.C., speaks on June 21 during a welcoming ceremony about the importance of the Remember the Removal bicycle ride. Cooper, who rode the trek in 2011, commended the Cherokee Nation for organizing the ride. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A map showing the route of the Remember the Removal bike ride from New Echota, Ga., the old Cherokee Nation capital, to Tahlequah, Okla., the current CN capital. COURTESY PHOTO
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians rider Marvel Welch of Cherokee, N.C., center, helps lead the Remember the Removal riders on June 21 into Tahlequah, Okla. At 53, Welch was oldest rider. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
06/25/2013 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Marvel Welch, 53, the oldest of the 2013 Remember the Removal bicycle riders, helped lead the cyclists on June 21 into Tahlequah as they ended their journey to cheers by family and friends.

Welch was one of seven riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who joined 15 riders from the Cherokee Nation. Together, they rode through seven states in three weeks – from New Echota, Ga., to Oklahoma – to commemorate the Trail of Tears. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the beginning of the forced removal that began in May 1838 when Cherokees were captured and moved to Indian Territory.

Welch of Cherokee, N.C., said her Cherokee ancestors remained in their North Carolina homelands after the removal, but dispelled the thought that her ancestors were not affected.

“My grandfather French moved back to North Carolina (after living in Oklahoma) and brought my mother. He traveled back and forth between Tahlequah and Cherokee,” she said. “This journey has been truly amazing with the young spirits that are with me. They’re all younger. I consider them kids. Their energy has kept me going. The land, at the places we have stopped, you can feel our past relations with us.”

Welch said she struggled at times during the journey, once riding up a large hill in Tennessee’s Cumberland Gap. She said she refused to get off of her bike and walk as other riders saw her struggle and came back to encourage her and put their hands on her back without pushing as she made it to the top of the hill.

“It’s just the amazing the energy that was there and the togetherness. I thought I was here to watch over them, and they were watching over me,” she said.

LaTasha Atcity of Tahlequah said she’s known of the ride since 2009 when it was reorganized 25 years after the initial trek. She hesitated turning in an application for four years. After hearing more about the ride she thought it would be an “amazing experience” because she knew little about her Cherokee heritage or the Trail of Tears and saw the ride as a way to learn.

“That’s something that really motivated me – to figure out what my heritage is and (learn about) the ancestors that brought me where I am today,” she said. “When I struggled every single day or when it was hot and I’m hungry, I knew that there was an end. My ancestors didn’t really know what the end was going to be. I’m going to go home, and I’m going to be able to sleep in my bed and see my family. They didn’t have that opportunity.”

EBCI rider Tighe Wachacha helped film a documentary about the ride two years ago. He applied for the ride in 2012 but was not selected. He trained and applied for this year’s ride and made the cut.

“After I watched them complete the ride...I immediately knew I wanted to try it,” he said. “Yeah, my ancestors didn’t have to make the trip, but the people of the Cherokee Nation are cousins or brothers and sisters of mine. I get a sense of how they felt leaving my own family behind because I’ve got two girls and a wife at home who I’ve not seen in three weeks.”

Fellow EBCI rider Hilary Gallegos said the opportunity to take the journey gave her a chance to learn about a time in Cherokee history that her family barely discussed and to form a bond with Oklahoma Cherokees.

“I’m glad I had this opportunity to get to know the facts about the Trail of Tears and what happened and to let everyone know we’re still here,” she said. “I’m just overwhelmed with joy for getting to know those that are in this journey that will forever be my family.”

The riders pedaled 950 miles through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma via a land route known as the Northern Route. Approximately 16,000 Cherokee people were removed from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina in the spring of 1838. It’s estimated nearly 4,000 of them died during the roundup, incarceration and removal.

EBCI rider Yona Wade said he can imagine how Cherokee people felt leaving their homes as he left his in Cherokee, crossing the Tennessee River at Blythe Ferry and watching the mountains fade into the distance.

“The Trail of Tears is a very important part of Cherokee history as a whole and us as one people, so it was very important for me to participate in this to understand the trials and tribulations our people faced during their journey to Oklahoma,” Wade said.

During the welcoming ceremony, Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, spoke about the importance of the ride and encouraged CN leadership to support it. Cooper, who took the ride in 2011, commended the CN for organizing it to instill leadership in youth and teach Cherokee history.

“I am confident that your investment in your future leadership will bring you more yield than anything else you could possibly invest in,” he said. “We hope that you endeavor to keep this alive and that you will continue to put all the resources necessary into ensuring that not only our tribe, the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Band, UKB (United Keetoowah Band) and tribes across the country never forgets the Trail of Tears, but that our country never forgets the Trail of Tears.”

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
01/30/2015 12:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – A disabled Cherokee Nation citizen with a love for hunting was able to partake in hunts thanks to the assistance of a local game warden and an eye surgeon from Sherman, Texas. Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer knew of CN citizen Rick Tabor’s love of hunting and his desire to hunt even though he was born disabled and confined to a wheelchair. With the help of Cramer and eye surgeon Bob Burlingame, Tabor was able to realize his dream of hunting elk this past fall. “Cramer had come to know Rick, and because of Rick’s desire to hunt, despite physical disabilities that would sideline most, he was determined to give this bright young man an opportunity to hunt,” Burlingame said. Burlingame purchased a ranch in Sequoyah and Adair counties and turned it into a wildlife haven while maintaining it as a timber and cattle ranch. Four years ago, Burlingame and Cramer met when Cramer visited Burlingame’s ranch. From that meeting, Burlingame said, Cramer and Tabor were to form an unusual alliance, the purpose of which was to enable Tabor to pursue his hunting dreams. Sam Munholland of the Oklahoma Youth Hunting and Shooting Sports Association assisted Burlingame and Cramer in locating a device that would allow Tabor to hunt. The wheelchair device was procured from beadaptive.com, a web-based company specializing in devices designed to aid disabled hunters. It was equipped with a brand new 30-06 rifle topped with a pistol scope and presented to Tabor for high school graduation this past spring. Cramer and Tabor wasted no time in sighting in the new rifle. After dispatching several hogs on Burlingame’s ranch later in the summer, Tabor’s first fall hunting trip in November proved successful after he harvested a buck and a doe. Cramer again visited with Burlingame regarding hunting possibilities for Tabor. Cramer and Tabor hoped to have a more challenging hunt. Three years previously, Burlingame had stocked Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch with elk, and a trophy bull was on the agenda as Tabor’s next hunting adventure. In December, the team of Cramer, Tabor, Burlingame and fellow hunter B.J. Latta waited patiently for an opportunity. Cramer, who had long wanted Burlingame to hunt with Tabor, gave up his spot in the hunting blind, taking a position farther south to watch the action. “Suddenly B.J. hoarsely whispered, ‘I see horns.’ Sure enough, a large bull loomed in the short brush adjacent to the trail they were hunting. After 30 tense minutes of wondering whether the massive bull would step out, B.J. once again exclaimed, ‘He’s stepping out,’” Burlingame said. “Rick readied himself for the shot, guiding his gun with a special aligning device that he operates with his mouth. After lining up his crosshairs just behind the bull’s shoulder, he coolly announced ‘I’m about to take the shot.’ The rifle roared, and the bull staggered as Rick’s bullet found its mark, a perfect hit. He followed up with a second shot to put the bull down for good.” Tabor’s hunting friends celebrated back at Burlingame’s barn. The bull was a true trophy for Tabor, Burlingame said. “Thus ended a fantastic hunt by a gutsy young man with physical challenges that most would consider insurmountable. It should be noted that none of this would have occurred without the hard work and dedication of Jared Cramer, who befriended Rick and tirelessly worked to make his hunting dreams a reality,” Burlingame said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/29/2015 12:17 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The eighth annual Reindeer Games Poker Tournament at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs helped raise $1,000 for the Oaks Indian Mission. The funds were raised to ensure that children would be able to celebrate important milestones in 2015. “We are very happy that Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Cherokee Nation Businesses continue to support the children we care for,” Oaks Indian Mission Executive Director Vance Blackfox said. “Gifts such as this and the ongoing support from casino employees and guests are crucial to providing the children with structure, a place to call home and educational opportunities that will bring hope for them and their futures.” Those participating in the tournament were given an opportunity to purchase additional poker chips. The money generated from the rebuy was designated as a contribution to OIM, raising approximately $1,000. “I’m proud to see our employees working hard to make sure the children of Oaks Indian Mission feel special throughout the year,” Tony Nagy, Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs general manager, said. “This is something they have continued to be passionate about. Making birthday memories is important for any child, but these children especially need loved during their special day.” Aside from the donation of money, CNE, CNB and OIM collaborate year round to help better the lives of each child at the mission. Employees from CNE and CNB volunteer at the mission and serve as storytellers, mentors and tutors. Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs employees also provide monthly birthday cakes to the youth at OIM. OIM cares for Native American youth ages 4 to 18. They house approximately 36 youth during the school year with a majority of them staying during the summer months. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.oaksindianmission.org" target="_blank">www.oaksindianmission.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have told tribal employees that they will now text or call employees regarding possible office closings or late start times. “This administration wants to ensure our employees are informed, and quickly, about decisions that affect their work day,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “In the past, when a foot of snow or ice patches covered the ground, our employees called our complex early that morning to listen to an operator recording to see if tribal offices would be open at 8 a.m., or they would text co-workers or bosses to ask.” To alert employees earlier the tribe will use Blackboard Connect, “a mass notification service.” “This is how it works: the system allowed our IT department to plug in all Cherokee Nation issued employee cell phones into a call list. When inclement weather strikes and our administration makes a decision to close the complex, or start work later than normal, employees will receive a phone call or text message, or both, as early as possible with such updates recorded by our Communications office,” according to a CN Communications release. “School systems, such as Fort Gibson, and city governments, such as Tahlequah, use similar messaging systems to keep their stakeholders informed.” CN employees who use a personal cell phone can send a name, title, department and phone number to communications@cherokee.org if they would like to receive the same notifications. “We realize it may take using this system a few times before it’s seamless, but I believe this will be another tool that increases the safety for employees and keeps you all better informed,” the release states. “Employees may also check Cherokee Nation Facebook and Cherokee Nation Twitter for the latest inclement weather related work updates as well.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/27/2015 11:01 AM
Tahlequah Sequoyah certainly has picked a proper time to peak during the season. The Indians and Lady Indians have taken advantage of a grueling January slate. The boys (11-5) are riding a seven-game win streak and the girls (13-3) have a six-game win streak of their own, too. Saturday, Jan. 24, Sequoyah claimed the boys and girls championship trophies at the Tri-State Classic in Jay. That type of domination couldn’t have come at a better time with No 1 boys and girls’ basketball teams in Class 4A coming to Sequoyah on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Fort Gibson is a combined 27-1, as it has dominated its opponents throughout the season consistently. The girls game will start at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will follow at 8 p.m. The same night, Sequoyah will honor a group who helped pave the way for basketball success at SHS--the Native American “Dream Team,” of 1998. “This was the team that broke the ice, being the first SHS team to reach the state basketball tournament,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Leroy Qualls, who is now a superintendent, was the head coach of the boys team. Also, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was a member of the team, too, among notables. In addition to the ceremony honoring the team, an autographed basketball from a notable Oklahoma City Thunder guard can be won, too. “Thanks to a generous donation from BancFirst of Tahlequah, we have a basketball autographed by Russell Westbrook that we will raffle off the same night,” Crittenden said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
01/27/2015 08:15 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment purchased three properties each in 2014. The properties total approximately 152 acres with the largest being in Rogers County. CNE purchased 89.98 acres on Sept. 30 from John and Velma Mullen. According to Rogers County records, the cost was $3.7 million. The land is located west/northwest of CNE’s Cherokee Hills Golf Course. The golf course is located at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Cherokee Phoenix reported in September that the acquired property would be used for the golf course. According to artist renderings, “Cherokee Outlets” a premium outlet shop and entertainment and dining zone that was announced on Sept. 10 is expected to be built behind the Hard Rock and could possibly use land occupied by the golf course and its clubhouse. CNB officials said they were awaiting a master plan for “Cherokee Outlets” as well as a plan from a golf course architect. “We are in the process of negotiating with the golf course architect. I anticipate getting that agreement in place in the next couple of weeks and starting to do some preliminary work there,” CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett said in September. According to CNE Communications, CNB officials are still planning work to be done on the golf course. CNE also purchased approximately 6 acres for $256,500 in Sequoyah County, according to county records. Cherokee Nation Property Management purchased the land from Benjamin and Judy Cowan and later deeded it to Cherokee Nation Construction Resources for housing. CNCR will build 23 homes that the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation will purchase after construction is complete. On July 2, Jim and Connie Jolliff sold 57.75 acres in Delaware County to CNPM for $85,000, according to county records. “This property is directly south/east of and abutting the Saline District Courthouse property owned by the Cherokee Nation,” CNE Communications officials said. However, CNB officials did not release the land’s intended use citing “competitive information exemption.” The three properties the CN bought are located in Cherokee County. Two properties were purchased from HLD Investments, a corporation in Tahlequah owned by the Mason and Minor families. On Nov. 3, the CN purchased a property and its building known as the “Clinic in the Woods,” which is located near W.W. Hastings Hospital off Boone Street. According to CN Communications, the tribe paid $1,078,500 for the 1.536 acres, and the building’s anticipated use will be for the tribe’s Behavioral Health Program. Also purchased on Nov. 3 was the Cascade property totaling less than 1 acre. It’s located near Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and Hastings Hospital. The property cost $771,500 and will be used for Health Services. The tribe also bought property located at 120 E. Balentine Road in Tahlequah for its motor vehicle tag office. It was purchased on Jan. 30 from Don Smith for $300,000, according to county records.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/26/2015 03:45 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. – Vision Maker Media will be offering summer, or fall, 10-week, paid internships for Native American and Alaska Native college students at various public TV stations. “Providing experience for Native students in the media is vitally important to ensure that we can continue a strong tradition of digital storytelling,” Shirley K. Sneve, Vision Maker Media executive director, said. “We are grateful for the support of local PBS stations in helping us achieve this goal.” During the internship at least two short-form videos on local Native American or Alaska Native people, events or issues for on-air or online distribution should be completed. With major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the purpose of this paid summer internship is to increase the journalism and production skills for the selected college student. One of the major goals of the internship will be to increase the quantity and quality of multimedia reporting available to public television audiences and other news outlets. Students interested in applying for this internship opportunity must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by March 24. The application process requires submission of a cover letter, resume, work samples, an official school transcript and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or former supervisor. Top applicants will be notified in late April with the internships spanning between May 1 and Dec. 18. Up to 10 public television stations will be selected to host an intern and an award of $5,000 to the station will be used to provide payment to the intern, cover any travel expenses and administrative fees. Stations that would like to be considered for hosting a public media intern must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by Feb. 3.