This is the 175th year that thousands of Cherokees have lived in Oklahoma after being forced from their lands east of the Mississippi, predominately Tennessee and Georgia.
In the fall of 1838, Cherokee people left Camp (Fort Cass — present day Charleston) along what would become the infamous Trail of Tears.
On Monday, bike riders from both the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee will make the trek from Red Clay Historical Park to Charleston and visit several historic areas prior to heading to their capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
This is the 30th annual Remember the Removal Bike Ride which traces the trail of many of the rider’s ancestors.
It is expected for the riders to take three weeks to complete.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and tribal leaders held a special send-off ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex to wish the riders a prosperous journey and safe return.
The 13 Cherokee Nation riders met up with six riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee Friday. The group began their ride in New Echota, Ga. on Saturday and will travel through seven states on bicycles before ending the 950-mile journey in Oklahoma June 19, according to information supplied by the Cherokee Nation.
New Echota was the Cherokee capital prior to 1838 when the last capital and council was held at Red Clay.
The people were then forced to emigrate to Camp Cass which also contained Rattlesnake Springs. Many died there before the removal took place in 1838. Many others died along the way — both young and old.
The memorial 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, according to officials.
“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,” 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 the tribe’s current capital in Tahlequah. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, an estimated 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease.
Many others reportedly died after arriving, due to the hardships and sickness from which from.
“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,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
“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.”
The riders from Cherokee Nation are Charli Barnoskie, Cassie Moore, Keeley Godwin, Adriana Collins, Noah Collins, Chance Rudolph, Jordan McLaren, Elizabeth Burns, Zane Scullawl, Madison Taylor, Jamekah Rios, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes and Jacob Chavez.
The riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are Patricia Watkins, Richard Sneed, Ty Bushyhead, Kelsey Owl, Russell Bigmeat and Katrina Sneed.
While in Charleston Monday, they will tour Rattlesnake Springs, the Lewis Ross House, the site of the Emigration Depot, Sarah Ross grave site in Calhoun, then make a stop at the Hiwassee River Heritage Center.
Follow the riders along the journey at www.facebook.com/removal.ride or with the Twitter hashtag #RememberTheRemoval.