05/31/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 13:31
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The six 2023 Cherokee Nation Remember the Removal Bike Ride participants left for Cherokee, North Carolina, Wednesday morning following a send-off ceremony at the Cherokee Nation W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and other Cherokee Nation leaders joined members of the Council of the Cherokee Nation and family, friends and co-workers of the six cyclists to share well-wishes ahead of their weeks-long journey. The cyclists will join five participants from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina later this week to train before their ride officially begins June 5.Family, friends and co-workers of the six cyclists shared well-wishes ahead of their weeks-long journey.
"It's such a proud day to witness the send-off of these six Cherokee women for the incredible journey they'll be undertaking over the next several weeks. The Remember the Removal Bike Ride reminds us each year of the history of our ancestors who endured some of the worst tragedy in the history of the Cherokee Nation," Chief Hoskin said. "But the bike ride also opens such a tremendous opportunity for several Cherokees each year to learn that history and honor the legacy of their ancestors. While accomplishing a life-changing journey across seven states, these six Cherokees will also reflect on how the Cherokee people persevered during the Trail of Tears and in the decades that followed. They are going to lead us in the weeks ahead and in the years to come, and I couldn't be prouder of each of them."
The Remember the Removal Bike Ride spans approximately 950 miles along the northern route of the Trail of Tears, beginning in New Echota, Georgia, the former capital of the Cherokee Nation, and ending on June 17 in Tahlequah. The northern route of the Trail of Tears spans through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
"It's an honor to see these cyclists embark upon this tremendous journey after months of training and studying about our Cherokee ancestors," Deputy Chief Warner said. "We ask that the Lord watches over each of them as they go on this journey. We pray not only for their safety, but also for their peace and understanding of what our ancestors went through and the perseverance and fight they showed."
Cherokee Nation cyclists include Faith Springwater, 19, of Tahlequah; Amaiya Bearpaw, 22, of Jay; Mattie Berry, 18, of Warner; Kenzie Snell, 19, of Park Hill; Samantha Cavin, 18, of Pryor; and mentor cyclist Libby Neugin, 40, of Tulsa.
"This opportunity means a lot to me, and I'm just humbled and thankful," Springwater said. "I'm eager to soak in as much of the experience as I can, and I hope to learn much more about my heritage. I think the thing I'm looking forward to the most is just being with my team experiencing the trials and tribulations that our ancestors faced."
This marks the second consecutive year for the Cherokee Nation Remember the Removal Bike Ride team to be comprised entirely of Cherokee women.
"I decided to be a part of this year's bike ride because I want to be involved in my Cherokee heritage, and I want to be one of those role models that I always looked up to as a child," Snell said. "I always knew about the bike ride growing up and I always looked up to the cyclists. I even have family that are alumni. So I've always wanted to join that prestigious group because I think it's a pretty amazing thing to do."Family, friends and co-workers of the six cyclists shared well-wishes ahead of their weeks-long journey.
Before leaving, the cyclists had their family trees mapped out by a professional genealogist, providing them insight into their ancestral past as well as connecting any family links they might share with one another.
During the bike ride, cyclists will visit several Cherokee gravesites and historic landmarks. Among the sites is Blythe Ferry in Tennessee on the westernmost edge of the old Cherokee Nation, as well as Mantle Rock in Kentucky, where Cherokees spent several weeks during the harsh winter of 1838-1839 waiting for the Ohio River to thaw and become passable.
Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to march to Indian Territory in the late 1830s, about 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears.
For more information on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride or to follow along during the journey, visit Facebook.com/removal.ride.