The 2016 Remember the Removal Cyclists departed the Cherokee Nation on Tuesday, May 31, officially beginning their 950-mile, three-week journey to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears.
The eight cyclists from the Cherokee Nation will join seven from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, and the full group will ride together to New Echota, Georgia, on June 5.
“These young men and women will travel along the same path their ancestors traveled. They will learn incredible lessons in Cherokee tribal history, as well as teamwork and personal perseverance. This is one of the most unique and challenging leadership development programs that I could imagine,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker in a press release. “I am so proud these eight individuals are undertaking the challenge the next few weeks will surely provide. As they ride from New Echota to Tahlequah, they will stop at historical Cherokee landmarks and gain a better grasp of the strength and courage our ancestors had in order to survive the Trail of Tears.”
The ride began more than 30 years ago as a leadership program that offered Cherokee students a glimpse at the hardships faced by their ancestors who made the same trek on foot.
Cherokees were rounded up and forced from their homes in Georgia, Tennessee and other southeastern states in the summer of 1838 to the tribe’s current capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. During the journey, an estimated 4,000 died from exposure, starvation and disease.
“The opportunity to participate in the Remember the Removal Bike Ride is amazing,” said cyclist Kylar Trumbla. “I’ve never had the chance to spend time with other Cherokees learning about our people, so to be able to take this journey mentally and physically and learn about the culture and language of the Cherokee people is an honor.”
For the first time, cyclists will receive three hours of college credit from Northeastern State University after completing the ride. They will also promote national parks along the way as part of a $15,000 grant awarded to the program from the National Park Service.