The cyclists' path won't be easy, but it's one they are willing
to take for a chance to learn about their ancestors and themselves.
young Cherokee bicyclists will tackle a nearly 1,000-mile Remember
the Removal Ride, which follows one of the Trail of Tears routes,
in the searing summer heat. But it's a chance for them to see the
same countryside their ancestors saw when they were forced at gunpoint
to abandon everything.
riders, ranging in age from 15 to 24, will begin Saturday in Rome,
Ga., near the old Cherokee capital of New Echota, following the
northern Trail of Tears route through parts of Georgia, Tennessee,
Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma before ending
the way, the cyclists will camp at night, visit and learn about
historical sites intertwined with the forced march, and visit the
known graves of those who could not complete the journey.
Trail of Tears was the result of the forced removal of American
Indian tribes in the southeastern United States in the 1830s to
what was then Indian Territory. Although the Choctaws, Seminoles,
Creeks, Chickasaws and Cherokees all had different circumstances
surrounding their removal, some more brutal than others, thousands
of American Indians died on the way to what is now Oklahoma.
Cherokees, who were removed from their lands about 176 years ago,
experienced brutal conditions and were put into concentration camps
where disease, misery and death were rampant before being forced
to march through snow and ice to a land most had never seen before.
riders, who went through a rigorous selection process, have trained
for about a month to make the estimated 20-day trip. Most have ridden
almost daily in preparation for the average 55-mile per day ride,
said Todd Enlow, a trip chaperone.
is about teaching this group of riders about themselves as well
as the history," Enlow said. "They might not have ever
considered doing something like this, but when they're finished
with this, they'll know what they thought was their limit they can
go beyond and dream."
route the cyclists will take stays with the northern Trail of Tears
route about 95 percent of the time, Enlow said.
the only woman in the group, 20-year-old Sarah Holcomb of Vian,
the ride is not only about tracing her distant ancestors' steps,
but more recent ones, as well. Her mother made a similar ride in
means a lot to be able to ride where my ancestors walked,"
Holcomb said. "I know it's going to be hard. I'm a very determined
person. I want to be able to make it through. I'm ready to start
said that, despite intimidating terrain and forecasts of terrible
heat along the way, the thing she is most worried about is missing
being around my family, I get homesick," she said. But, "I'm
learning to do something on my own."
Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith will join the riders, probably
near the Nashville area, said tribal spokeswoman LeeAnn Dreadfulwater.
really excited," Dreadfulwater said. "It's not only a
revival of the ride done (25) years ago, this is also a chance for
them to go out and really discover their roots."
tribe is planning a return party for the group once they near the
Tahlequah area, Dreadfulwater said.
want to learn more about my ancestors and take the route they took,"
said rider Dallas Smith, 16, of Peggs. In addition, he said, "I'm
looking forward to going to Nashville. I've always wanted to see
grandmother Debra Smith said she was worried about his going on
the ride at first and that she and her grandson were both shaken
when they heard news recently about two cyclists who were killed
by a motorist near Sand Springs.
she remains proud of his commitment to learning more about his heritage.
said, 'That's scary, but I'm still going,' " Smith said. "It's
scary, but he's in the Lord's hands, so I'm not going to worry.
It's the trip of a lifetime. I told him about his ancestry, but
I can't wait for him to experience it. It will make it more real.
as proud of him as I can be."
Trail of Tears
passes the Indian removal Act, endorsed by President Andrew
Jackson. The Choctaws are the first to be removed. An estimated
2,000 Choctaws die along the way to Indian Territory.
Creeks sign a treaty opening some land to white settlement,
but guaranteeing the tribe protected ownership of the remaining
part. The Chickasaws, seeing removal as inevitable, sign a removal
small group of Seminoles is coerced into signing a removal
small faction of Cherokees who were not recognized leaders
sign a removal treaty known as the Treaty of New Echota. more
than 15,000 Cherokees sign a petition in protest.
Second Seminole War begins between the U.S. and Seminoles who
refused to leave their land.
Secretary of War orders the removal of the Creeks after clashes
with white settlers. The Treaty of New Echota is ratified.
Chickasaws begin moving west. By this time, about 15,000 Creeks,
many in chains, had been moved to Indian Territory.
Chickasaws arrive in Indian Territory. About 2,000 Cherokees
had migrated west, and 16,000 remained.
U.S. government sent in troops, forcing the Cherokees into
stockades without allowing them to gather their belongings.
As many were taken away, their homes were looted. They were
then forced to march.
nearly 4,000 deaths from cold, hunger and disease, the Cherokee
people arrive in Indian Territory.
Second Seminole War ends, and the majority of the tribe is sent
about the removal of Cherokees
is murder, and somebody must answer. Somebody must explain the streams
of blood that flowed in the Indian country in the summer of 1838.
Somebody must explain the 4,000 silent graves that mark the trail
of the Cherokees to their exile. I wish I could forget it all, but
the picture of 645 wagons lumbering over the frozen ground with
their cargo of suffering humanity still lingers in my memory.
Pvt. John G. Burnett
fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and
slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest
work I ever knew. Georgia militiaman who participated
in the Cherokee roundup
does this government think that the people of the United States
are become savage and mad? From their mind are the sentiments of
love and a good nature wiped clean out? The soul of man, the justice,
the mercy that is the hearts heart in all men, from maine
to Georgia, does abhor this business. ... You sir, will bring down
that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seal is
set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation,
hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the
world. Ralph Waldo Emerson in his Cherokee Letter
to President Martin Van Buren regarding the Treaty of New Echota
here to view the cyclist's blog, which features a map, history of
the Trail of Tears and rider biographies.