Cherokee women will bike on Trail of Tears route

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Six cyclists from the Cherokee Nation will participate in the 2022 Remember the Removal Bike Ride in June. This is the first year the team is comprised entirely of Cherokee women.

The bike ride spans about 950 miles along the northern route of the Trail of Tears. Cyclists will travel from Georgia to Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, over nearly three weeks.

The cyclists will average around 60 miles a day along the routes used by their Cherokee ancestors, who made the same trek by foot more than 180 years ago. They’ll visit several Cherokee gravesites and historic landmarks along the ride.

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“For generations, we’ve always honored our ancestors and the devastation that they endured during the Trail of Tears,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The Remember the Removal Bike Ride is such a tremendous opportunity for our Cherokee youth to learn the history and honor the legacy of their ancestors who endured some of the worst tragedy in the history of the Cherokee Nation.”

An estimated 16 thousand Cherokees were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory in 1838 and 1839. About 4 thousand died from starvation, disease and exposure to the elements.

The cyclists were chosen based on an essay submission, in-person interviews and a physical.

The group began training in December, and have spent weekends training and cycling on routes throughout the Cherokee Nation Reservation.

One of the participants, 24-year old Emily Christie, works at the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center in Tahlequah, and said being chosen for the ride was an emotional experience.

“I am very passionate about the history of the Cherokee Nation and I am so blessed to be on a team and be involved with others who share the same desire to learn more about our history, share our knowledge, and honor and remember our ancestors,” Christie said. “The impact of the Trail of Tears created a bond that could never be broken. We fought through devastation, embraced our community, and embraced each other, our brothers and sisters. This bond lives in us today and it is renewed every time we Remember the Removal.”

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Another participant, 24-year-old Kayce O’Field, said it’s a huge honor to be chosen to participate in the bike ride.

“I’ve already learned so much about myself and where I come from. It is a humbling experience,” said O’Field. “I am truly honored and blessed for the opportunity to represent my family, my tribe and my ancestors.”

The cyclists also had their family trees mapped out by a professional genealogist, showing them their ancestral past and connecting any family links they might share with each other.

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

2022 Remember the Removal Bike Ride cyclists from Cherokee Nation:

  • Emily Christie, 24, Stilwell
  • Kortney Dry, 24, Tahlequah
  • Kayce O’Field, 24, Tahlequah
  • Jeanetta Leach, 23, Rocky Mountain
  • Madison Whitekiller, 23, Verdigris
  • Desiree Matthews, 18, Watts