Some 19 Cherokee Indian cyclists and 12 support team members spent part of their summer tracing the 950-mile path their ancestors traveled in the 1800s on foot.
Some 19 Cherokee Indian cyclists and 12 support team members spent part of their summer tracing the 950-mile path their ancestors traveled in the 1800s on foot. The “Trail of Tears” was the land route approximately 50,000 Indians followed after US Congress in 1830 passed the Indian Removal Act, which forced Indians off their ancestral lands in southeastern US into Indian Territory, today known as Oklahoma.
The group was retracing the northern route of the Trail of Tears, now a National Historic Trail. The trail weaves through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Oklahoma. In Missouri, the trail runs through Mark Twain National Forest from Potosi through Rolla before turning south along Interstate 44 towards Springfield, Mo.
The annual bike ride, started in 2009, is called “Remember the Removal” and is designed to help descendants learn, and re-connect, with ancestors. Riders learn about their family history through a genealogy class and undergo physical training in preparation for the ride. To participate, interested riders submit essays to apply.
“These are the kinds of events that make you get to know yourself better,” said Mark Twain National Forest Bill Nightingale during the group’s welcome to Rolla.
“This is their opportunity to learn from the past and to prepare these riders to be leaders in the future,” said Joseph Erb, Remember the Removal bike ride coordinator. Erb is with Cherokee Nation Education Services.
Thirteen of the riders were from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. They included 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.
Six were from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from North Carolina. They included Patricia Watkins, Richard Sneed, Ty Bushyhead, Kelsey Owl, Russell Bigmeat and Katrina Sneed.
The ride began in New Echota, Georgia. It ended June 19, 2014 at the Cherokee Nation Capitol Tahlequah, Oklahoma. An estimated 4,000 of the approximately 16,000 Cherokees died of exposure, starvation and disease during the removal. Of the 13 detachments of Cherokee, nine are known to have passed through Missouri. In addition, 21,000 Muscogee (Creek), 9,000 Choctaw, 6,000 Chikasaw and 4,000 Seminole Indians were re-located.