The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony for the 11 Cherokee Nation cyclists who leave Tahlequah today for the 2019 Remember the Removal Bike Ride.
This year’s cyclists range in age from 20 to 24, along with two mentor cyclists. They will meet 10 cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina for a ride that begins in New Echota, Georgia, on June 2, and concludes around 950 miles later in Tahlequah on June 20.
Cyclists follow the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears, spanning Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, to retrace the path of their ancestors. 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.
During the send-off ceremony, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and other tribal leaders will wish the cyclists a successful trip and safe return.
The 2019 participants are Destiny Matthews and Elizabeth Hummingbird, of Adair County; Joshua Chavez, Brooke Bailey, Kayli Gonzales, Ashley Hunnicutt and Steven Shade, of Cherokee County; Sydnie Pierce, of Mayes County; and Shadow Hardbarger, of Sequoyah County. Kevin Stretch, the interim director of Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach, and Marie Eubanks, a teaching assistant at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, were chosen as this year’s two mentor riders.