2020 RTR ride canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic
Cherokee Nation officials on May 14 canceled the 2020 “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride to ensure safety measures of riders and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ride resumes next year, with this year’s riders having first priority to participate. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation 2020 “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride has been cancelled and will resume in 2021, CN officials said on May 14.
The announcement comes as the tribe deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on CN services and programs.
“The ‘Remember the Removal’ Bike Ride is a tremendously important program for our Cherokee youth to learn the history and honor the legacy of their ancestors who endured some of the worst tragedy in the history of the great Cherokee Nation. There is not another life-changing opportunity like this ride,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “However, this year, with the threat of COVID-19, we simply cannot jeopardize the riders’ health and safety, nor that of our coordinators and all the volunteers who meet us along the Trail of Tears route. We understand this is disappointing, as our cyclists have spent months training both physically and mentally. They committed themselves to continuing this program’s legacy, and it is our hope that each one is able to participate next year. Our riders will be given first preference in 2021.”
The RTR ride is a youth leadership program that retraces the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears from New Echota, Georgia, to Tahlequah.
The nearly 950-mile trek spans seven states: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Participants retrace the path Cherokee ancestors were forced to walk more than 180 years ago on the Trail of Tears. The ride was scheduled to begin June 1, according to the announcement.
The ride was created in 1984 as a youth leadership program. It was restarted in 2009, and in 2011 began to include cyclists from both the CN and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The nine cyclists to participate were announced in March and had been training since December for the annual ride. When the pandemic forced closures and social distancing, riders began training individually.
The 2020 riders are Shace Duncan, 17, of Westville; Tyrus Goodrich, 24, of Tahlequah; Whitney Roach, 21, of Tahlequah; Kaylee Smith, 19, of Tahlequah; Natasia Wacoche, 19, of Hulbert; mentor rider Tracie Asbill, 38, of Tahlequah; Heather True, 19, of Pryor; Madison Whitekiller, 21, of Claremore; and Melanie Giang, 20, of Tulsa.
Although the 2020 ride has been canceled, this year’s cyclists will have first priority to participate in the 2021 program.