2019 ‘Remember the Removal’ cyclists end trek in Oklahoma
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed, CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker, CN Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and CN Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd stand with the 2019 “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride cyclists after they finished their 950-mile trek on June 20 in Tahlequah. COURTESY
Cherokee Immersion Charter School students greet teacher assistant and “Remember the Removal” mentor cyclist Marie Eubanks, of Rocky Mountain, on June 20 in Tahlequah. COURTESY
“Remember the Removal” cyclist Manuel Hernandez, of the Big Y community in North Carolina, is greeted with high-fives after arriving June 20 in Tahlequah. COURTESY
Cheering spectators and supporters greet the “Remember the Removal” cyclists as they enter Tahlequah. The Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclists finished the 950-mile trip on June 20. BRANDON SCOTT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
“Remember the Removal” cyclist Destiny Matthews, of Watts, hugs her mother, Miranda Matthews, after returning from the 950-mile journey on June 20. BRANDON SCOTT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Monica Wildcat, an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclist, hugs her children on June 20 in Tahlequah after finishing the last leg of the “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride. BRANDON SCOTT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Thirty-five years after the initial bike ride, and with more than 200 alumni, the 2019 “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride cyclists were welcomed home by a swarm of friends and family on June 20 at the Cherokee National Peace Pavilion.
The 21 cyclists, made up of Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens, rode down Water Avenue in the final leg of their 950-mile journey that retraced the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears.
Upon their welcome, several CN and EBCI dignitaries praised the cyclists for their accomplishments and remembrance of their ancestors’ journey.
CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he met and talked with this year’s riders and listened to their stories on how the ride touched them and changed them.
“They all agreed that they have a job to do now. It is incumbent on them to go home, to share what they have learned, to share what they have experienced with their friends, their neighbors, their children, their parents and their grandparents so that this is never ever forgotten,” Baker said.
EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed said that the riders persevered and maintained hope. “We enjoy a comfortable life because of their tenacity, their endurance and perseverance. And most importantly their ability to maintain hope.”
EBCI cyclist Blythe Winchester shared her thoughts regarding the ride. “I learned immeasurable things on this journey about our culture and history. But being in these places and experiencing the environment as a part of two nations, who are really just one, but separated by force. There really is no comparison to this experience. At least for us we came together very well and quickly. In the end, I feel like we were just moving like a well-oiled machine.”
Lisa J. Billy, Secretary of Native American Affairs for the Oklahoma Governor’s Cabinet, attended the return ceremony to read a proclamation marking the week of June 17 as “Trail of Tears 180th Anniversary Remembrance Week” in Oklahoma.
“The Cherokee Nation’s history and culture enrich our families and communities and Oklahoma acknowledges the accomplishments of Cherokee statesmen and stateswomen, both past and present,” the proclamation stated.
In honor of the 180th anniversary of the end of the forced removal, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas governor’s offices declared for each of the states a “Trail of Tears Remembrance Week,” each during a different week in June.
Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd acknowledged that this year’s group of riders was “female forward” for its larger percentage of female cyclists. Fifteen of the 21 cyclists were women.
“We have seen many Native women realize their potential from leading their tribes, from being elected to U.S. Congress and most recently, named to the U.S. Poet Laureate. You are earth shakers and you should be proud,” Byrd said.
The ceremony ended with each of the riders receiving a medal and certificate for their accomplishments and contributions to this year’s ride.The 2019 “Remember the Removal” cyclists:
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians