Remember the Removal participant Keeley Godwin leads riders and staff during a May 25 training ride near Tahlequah, Okla. Godwin and 12 other cyclists from the Cherokee Nation were expected to leave New Echota, Ga., on June 1 and travel nearly 1,000 miles along the northern route of the Trail of Tears and arrive on June 19 in Tahlequah. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Remember the Removal riders get special send off

The 2014 Remember the Removal cyclists who will retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears are, from left to right, Chance Rudolph, Zane Scullawl, Charli Barnoskie, Madison Taylor, Noah Collins, Adriana Collins, Elizabeth Burns, Keeley Godwin, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes, Cassie Moore, Jamekah Rios, Jordan McLaren and Jacob Chavez. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The 2014 Remember the Removal cyclists who will retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears are, from left to right, Chance Rudolph, Zane Scullawl, Charli Barnoskie, Madison Taylor, Noah Collins, Adriana Collins, Elizabeth Burns, Keeley Godwin, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes, Cassie Moore, Jamekah Rios, Jordan McLaren and Jacob Chavez. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
06/04/2014 08:33 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On May 28, 13 Remember the Removal bike riders and staff departed Tahlequah, officially beginning a three-week journey to retrace their ancestors’ path along the Trail of Tears.

Family and friends joined tribal leaders for a send-off ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex to wish the riders a prosperous journey and safe return.

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 in 1838-39.

Keeley Godwin, 21, of Welling, said she was inspired to take the challenge of riding nearly 1,000 miles along the northern route of the Trail of Tears because some of her friends had done it.

“I wanted to see as close as possible what it was like for them (ancestors) and what they went through, how they got here, and why I’m here,” she said.

The recent college graduate said she wants to complete something major in her life and the bike ride is it for her. She added that she wants to complete the ride to add to her successes and make her family proud.

“The first thing I’m excited about is actually getting to Cherokee (N.C.) and just having that moment to take in and realize this is where we came from and to travel and say ‘this is where they traveled, this is where they stayed.’ When I think about I get goose bumps,” she said.

The ride’s coordinator Joseph Erb, said education has been more of a focus for this year’s trip. On weekends, the participants attended a Cherokee history course before taking their training rides. And during the actual trip, the riders will have more contact with historians at stops along the route.

“So when they go to see these places, not only will they have been educated beforehand, but when they get there they will have another lesson about it,” he said. “We are also doing journals to talk about what they have learned. We also did their genealogy to actually tie the riders to the different locations so that’ll know their family history.”

Erb explored the northern route this past winter to see if it could be improved. He said the bicyclists were expected to travel 98 percent of the route Cherokee people used during the winter of 1838-39.

The 13 CN riders will meet six riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, N.C., to train together. The 19 riders are then expected to travel to the capital of the old Cherokee Nation at New Echota, Ga., and leave there on June 1. During the ride, cyclists will have traveled seven states before ending the journey on June 19 in Tahlequah.

“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,” Principal Chief Bill John 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 what is now northeastern Oklahoma. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, an estimated 4,000 died from 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,” EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks said. “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.”

Rider Adriana Collins said Oklahoma history is “deficient” in informing students about the Trail of Tears, and her goal is learn more about the forced removal firsthand.

“I want to be able to have an opinion. I don’t think you should really be allowed to have an opinion if you don’t understand what happened or you don’t study what happened. So, to be able to have an educated opinion, I think I need to do this ride,” Collins said.

Along with Godwin and Collins, the CN riders are Charli Barnoskie, Cassie Moore, Noah Collins, Chance Rudolph, Jordan McLaren, Elizabeth Burns, Zane Scullawl, Madison Taylor, Jamekah Rios, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes and Jacob Chavez. The EBCI riders are Patricia Watkins, Richard Sneed, Ty Bushyhead, Kelsey Owl, Russell Bigmeat and Katrina Sneed.

Follow the riders at www.facebook.com/removal.ride or with the Twitter hash tag #RememberTheRemoval.
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/27/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Employees from Cherokee Nation Businesses and Cherokee Nation Entertainment are once again celebrating the spring season by volunteering in a statewide initiative to make Oklahoma cleaner, greener and more beautiful. Joining the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful for the 28th annual Trash-OFF, employees from the tribe’s corporate and entertainment properties cleared trash and debris from alongside local roadways. Trash-OFF is Oklahoma’s signature event in the Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program. Each spring, Trash-OFF brings together thousands of volunteers working to improve the state’s appearance and the safety of its roads. The official Trash-OFF cleanup day was April 23, but the annual effort is held from March 1 through May 31. CNB and CNE employees are volunteering throughout April and May. “The Trash-OFF is a great way to unite communities and show pride in Oklahoma,” said Melody Johnson, ODOT Beautification coordinator. “We are fortunate to have so many caring people pitch in to keep our land grand.” The effort to make Oklahoma roads cleaner and safer for motorists is part of a longstanding partnership between CNB and ODOT. CNB’S involvement with cleanup projects, such as Trash-OFF and the Adopt-A-Highway program, are coordinated through the company’s Community Impact Team, which helps promote volunteerism and community engagement for all employees. “We live in such a beautiful part of this country. It is an honor to be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the two-mile stretch of Highway 59 South, near our casino,” said Amber Nelson, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw marketing manager, “Many of our team members drive that route every day and feel proud each time they see the Adopt-A-Highway sign with our name on it.” To beautify local communities, CNB and CNE have additional cleanup days scheduled throughout the year. All eight of CNE’s Cherokee Casinos and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa have separate CIT teams that also participate in ODOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/26/2016 03:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to courthouse officials, the Cherokee Courthouse will be closed on April 27-28 for building maintenance. “We will be open on Friday for normal business hours,” officials said. The courthouse is located at 101 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-458-9440.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/25/2016 03:30 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on April 19 to uphold a federal law aimed at people who have been convicted of repeated acts of domestic violence on Indian lands. The case argued at the high court tests whether the law and its stiff prison terms can be used against defendants who did not have lawyers in earlier domestic violence convictions in tribal courts. The U.S. appeals court in San Francisco threw out a 46-month federal prison term for defendant Michael Bryant Jr. because his earlier domestic violence convictions were handled without a lawyer in tribal courts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Several justices seemed skeptical of the argument of Bryant's lawyer, Steven Babcock. Bryant never challenged his earlier convictions or prison sentences of up to a year. Congress has put limits on prison terms imposed by tribal courts. "So if it's a valid conviction, why can't you use it?" Justice Stephen Breyer asked. Babcock said the use of the earlier convictions in prosecuting Bryant on new charges violated his constitutional right to a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an attorney for criminal defendants in state and federal courts. Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, defendants have the right to hire their own attorneys in tribal court but are not guaranteed that one will be retained by the court for them. Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Prelogar said Congress, in 2005, provided for prosecutions in federal court and lengthier penalties for repeat offenders "in response to the epidemic of domestic violence in Indian Country." Bryant has more than 100 tribal court convictions on his record, including five domestic violence convictions between 1997 and 2007, the government said. In 1999, he attempted to strangle his live-in girlfriend and hit her over the head with a beer bottle, the government said. In 2007, Bryant beat up his girlfriend and kneed her in the face, breaking her nose, the government said. In 2011, federal agents arrested him under the law at issue on charges he beat two women in the span of several months. Prelogar said the appeals court was wrong to rule in favor of defendants like Bryant "who have abused and battered their intimate partners again and again." A decision in U.S. v. Bryant, 15-420, is expected by late June.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/21/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On June 5, 10 Cherokee Nation cyclists and seven Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclists will begin a three-week bicycle ride from New Echota, Georgia, to travel along the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The “Remember the Removal Memorial Ride” ride is held to commemorate the forced removal of Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in the 1830s. Since late January, the CN group has been performing physical training in preparation for the journey. And since March, the riders have been training with their bicycles. Kelsey Girty, 24, of Gore, said the riders begin their training day with Cherokee language and history classes at the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah before preparing their bikes to ride. On April 16, they rode hills to prepare for the hills and mountains they will see in eastern Tennessee and beyond in June. She said the bicycle training she has taken part in has made her stronger. “I remember the first day (of training) we went up a hill and it was like so difficult, and then we went up it two weeks later, and it was nothing. We’ve already overcome a lot of obstacles,” she said. Girty said she grew up playing sports and knows about self-discipline to train and practice on her own. Two days a week she lifts weights and another two days she rides her bicycle or runs, she said, in addition to the training with the nine other riders. Along with preparing for the nearly 1,000-mile journey, all of this year’s cyclists, seven women and three men, must complete a 70-mile ride in one day before they are allowed to go on the trip. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. We’ve done 54 miles, which is getting us close. That’s the furthest we’ve done so far,” she said. Girty said she’s heard about the Trail of Tears all of her life from family and in school but wants to learn more about it by tracing the actual trail. “This is just a way to actually see it with my own eyes and feel it,” she said. She said she also wants to see the removal route in honor of her grandmother, who told her stories about the Trail of Tears, to make her proud. Amber Anderson, of Warr Acres, guessed she was in for a tough day after she was told the cyclists would be training on hills during their April 16 training ride. They tackled a steep hill on Horseshoe Bend Road south of Tahlequah, which has a 7 percent grade and is about a mile long. The 10 cyclists rode up the hill twice along with other steep hills on the day’s route. “It’s challenging. On weekends we train for two days and then on weekdays they encourage us to train every couple days as well,” Anderson said. At home she trains in a gym twice a week and rides 30 to 40 miles two days a week. She credits ride coordinators Kevin Jackson and Sarah Holcomb for encouraging them to improve and for providing the training needed to prepare for the six states they will cross before returning to Oklahoma. “With every ride everyone seems to be meshing together a little bit better, getting to know each other, getting comfortable around each other,” Anderson said. “It’s really great to work with a team of individuals who are passionate about our culture and are here for the same reasons.” Anderson said her family traveled the northern route of the Trail of Tears in the winter of 1838-39, and she said she not only wants to memorialize the Cherokee people who perished during the forced removals, but also celebrate the Cherokee people’s “tenacity.” Blayn Workman, of Muldrow, seemed unfazed by the hill work on April 16. “Whenever we see someone coming up a hill we always cheer them on and clap and tell them ‘good job,’” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape considering we’ve only had our bikes for about four weeks now.” He said he applied to go on the trip because he wants to learn more about his ancestors, culture and about the trail. “In schools they only really teach about the Treaty of New Echota. I just wanted to further my knowledge about it (Trail of Tears),” he said. “I want to see the sights my ancestors used to see every day. I want to see the trail they walked. I want to see the monuments, and I want to become connected with that side of myself.”