2019 ‘Remember the Removal’ ride begins with send-off ceremony
The 11 Cherokee Nation “Remember the Removal” cyclists pose with Principal Chief Bill John Baker, center, Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden, and four Cherokee ambassadors at a May 28 send-off ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah before leaving for North Carolina. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen and 2019 “Remember the Removal” cyclist Brooke Bailey introduces herself at a send-off ceremony on May 28 at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah. She and 10 other cyclists left for North Carolina that day. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tress Yahola Lewis, a 1984 “Remember the Removal” cyclist, speaks at the 2019 “RTR” send-off on May 28 at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah. Lewis shared her experiences from 35 years ago and bestows advice to this year’s riders. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen and 2019 “Remember the Removal” cyclist Kayli Gonzales hugs a family member at a May 28 send-off ceremony. Gonzales and her teammates left to join 10 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian cyclists in North Carolina. The bike ride begins on June 2 from New Echota, Georgia. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s “Remember the Removal” program kicked off the 2019 bike ride on May 28 at the W.W. Keeler Complex with a ceremony to send nine cyclists and two mentor riders on a 950-mile bike ride starting in New Echota, Georgia, to learn about Cherokee history and honor their ancestors.
After a blessing from Cherokee spiritual leader Crosslin Smith, CN dignitaries and ‘RTR’ alumni spoke to the cyclists about what they will learn and experience.
Tribal Speaker Joe Byrd told the group they would learn leadership and how to work as a team.
“There’s not going to be people as prepared as some and there’s where the leadership comes in. Are you going to reach down and help somebody that’s not making it as good as you are or are you going to go on? You’re probably going to stop and help. I guarantee it. Because that’s the Indian way, that’s the Cherokee way,” Byrd said.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said each cyclist who goes on the trip would not return the same person and would experience a “metamorphosis.”
“This program has done so much more than just train and teach the riders because every time that they go, we learn new things that we bring back to the tribe,” Baker said.
The 2019 cyclists also heard from 1984 cyclist Tress Yahola Lewis and 2010 cyclist Todd Enlow. Each shared their experiences and what this year’s cyclists might experience.
“At one point I thought what was it like walking miles and miles through the snow. And then I thought, I’d really like some snow right about now; it’s hot out here. These kinds of thoughts will run through your mind as you make your way home,” Lewis said. “You will find within yourself a spirit that can push on just a little more. And I can tell with certainty when you can’t, there will be a rider show up right when you need help and encouragement.”
Enlow shared Lewis’ thoughts on the mental and physical challenges the riders could face.
“You guys have learned a lot already in your training. You’ve learned to bond as a family. I can tell by the giggles that often occur. That will be common throughout the bike ride. But there will also be frustration and pain and doubt. I want you to understand that doubt should never enter your mind for more than a second because your ancestors fought through that doubt each and every day,” Enlow said.
Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett, who partially cycled the trail with last year’s cyclists shared that preparation, persistence and togetherness are valuable lessons the cyclists will learn.
Brooke Bailey, a 2019 cyclist, said she wants to gain experience and bond with her teammates.
“Thing I want to get most out of this trip is the experience and bonding with our teammates, which are now family. I also hope to learn more about my culture and where I came from and who I am,” Bailey said.
The 2019 cyclists are Destiny Matthews, Elizabeth Hummingbird, Joshua Chavez, Brooke Bailey, Kayli Gonzales, Ashley Hunnicutt, Steven Shade, Sydnie Pierce, Shadow Hardbarger, Kevin Stretch and Marie Eubanks.
The 11 CN cyclists will join with 10 cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and leave June 2 from New Echota, Georgia, and return to Tahlequah on June 20.
The EBCI cyclists are Tonya Carroll, Zach Goings, Keyonna Owle, Micah Swimmer, Danielle Toineeta, Dre Crowe, Manuel Hernandez, Skye Tafoya, Monica Wildcat and Blythe Winchester.
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