Published June 5, 2017
Every summer a group of young riders from Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians team up and retrace by bicycle the Trail of Tears, our ancestor’s removal route from our homelands in the East to modern-day Oklahoma. This year 12 riders from Cherokee Nation, who range in age from 16 to 24, are joining eight others from North Carolina to complete the 950-mile trip.
This is a special group of young people who will retrace our tribe’s route to Oklahoma. As a student of history, and specifically Cherokee history, I am envious of their experience. This is the best classroom I could ever imagine.
People sometimes ask why we do this program year after year. We do it because this annual event is important and deeply meaningful to our people, especially our youth. The Remember the Removal effort enables some of Cherokee Nation’s strongest emerging leaders to participate in a unique event that is focused on individual growth, teamwork development and, most importantly, sharing Cherokee history and heritage.
The riders travel about 60 miles per day over a three-week period and pass through seven states: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. It’s a hard trek to be sure, but the struggles on the ride offer a small taste of what our ancestors experienced many years ago along the Trail of Tears. We will always remember and honor those sacrifices. We are here today, as the largest tribal government in America, because of that strength and perseverance.
Accepting the challenge of this ride definitely changes any Cherokee who participates. It opens eyes, expands minds and allows the riders to feel closer to Cherokee history than ever before. They start out as individuals and return as a family, relying on one another while growing stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually.
It’s an inspiring and motivating sight to see 20 Cherokee bike riders peddling together in unison toward a shared goal. I encourage people to follow the ride’s progress on social media. The Remember the Removal Facebook is updated daily.
Below are the 2017 Remember the Removal Riders:
- Breanna Anderson, 21, Sand Springs, University of Tulsa
- Brian Barlow, 22, Tahlequah, George Washington University
- Shelby Deal, 19, Porum, Connors State College
- KenLea Henson, 23, Proctor, Northeastern State University
- Raven Girty, 20, Gore, Northeastern State University
- Ellic Miller, 23, Tahlequah, Northeastern State University
- Gaya Pickup, 21, Salina, Sequoyah High School graduate
- Trey Pritchett, 19, Stilwell, Northeastern State University
- Susie Means-Worley, 24, Stilwell, Northeastern State University
- Hunter Scott, 16, Bunch, Sequoyah High School
- Macie Sullateskee, 19, Tahlequah, Northeastern State University
- Skylar Vann, 23, Locust Grove, Northeastern State University
Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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