Remember the Removal riders get special send off
6/4/2014 8:33:04 AM
 
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
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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
BY WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter 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.
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