Young women will follow the path of their ancestors “Trail of Tears”

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From left, Kayce O’Field, Emily Christie, Jeanetta Leach, Kortney Dry, Desiree Matthews and Madison Whitekiller have been selected to participate in the 2022 “Remember the Removal” bike ride from Georgia to Oklahoma. (Courtesy picture)

For six young citizens of the Cherokee Nation, June will mark a difficult journey.

It will be a grueling bike ride through seven states, but it will also be a journey of reflection on the past and what their Cherokee ancestors endured along the infamous Trail of Tears.

The six cyclists: Kortney Dry, 24, and Kayce O’Field, 24, both of Tahlequah; Emily Christie, 24, of Stilwell; Jeanetta Leach, 23, of Rocky Mountain; Madison Whitekiller, 23, of Verdigris; and Desiree Matthews, 18, of Watts, were recently selected to participate in the 2022 “Remember the Removal” bike ride. Their ride will retrace an approximately 950-mile path followed by Cherokee people who were forcibly removed from their native lands in Georgia to Oklahoma in the late 1830s.

This is the first year the team has been made up entirely of Cherokee women.

“The Remember the Removal Bike Ride is a wonderful opportunity for our young Cherokee people to learn history and honor the legacy of their ancestors who endured one of the worst tragedies in the history of the Cherokee Nation” , said senior chef Chuck Hoskin Jr. . “Perhaps equally important, this trip allows them to reflect on how the Cherokee people persevered in the face of these past obstacles. It wasn’t without pain, it wasn’t without setbacks, but today, because of what our ancestors overcame, these six Cherokees will go on a life-changing journey across seven states.

Over three weeks, the ride will take riders from Georgia to Tennessee, through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas and finally Oklahoma. According to the plans, they will average around 60 miles a day.

Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey on foot to Indian Territory in 1838 and 1839, about 4,000 died of starvation, disease, and exposure.

The young women were selected to participate in the trip based on a trial run and in-person interviews. The group began training in December.

“It’s a huge honor to have been selected for the 2022 RTR Bike Ride and to be able to retrace the steps of my ancestors,” said O’Field. “I have already learned a lot about myself and where I come from. It is a humbling experience. I am extremely grateful to my team and the resilience where we come from.

The cyclists from the Cherokee Nation will be joined by seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. Together, they will begin the ride in New Echota, Georgia, a former capital of the Cherokee Nation, on May 30.

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