Remember the Removal Bike Riders Retrace Cherokee History

May 31, 2014, 08:49 ET from Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

CHEROKEE, N.C., May 31, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Six members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians joined 12 members of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma in the annual 950-mile, "Remember the Removal" bike ride commemorating the 1839 Trail of Tears on May 30, 2014. The 3-week ride begins with a ceremonial meeting at the Kituwah Mound near Cherokee, N.C. The riders then travel to New Echota, Ga. to begin the journey which ends in Tahlequah, Oklahoma the capital of the Cherokee Nation.

"The 'Remember the Removal' ride not only commemorates this important event in our people's history," said Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band, "it is an opportunity for our youth to learn more about our history." Riders will make stops at museums, gravesites, stockades, churches and other historic sites along the way accompanied by Jack Baker, Cherokee Nation tribal council member and Trail of Tears historian. Riders will also document their journey using personal video diaries.

Eastern Band riders were selected in January and began four months of training in February. This year's team includes, among others, a father-daughter duo, an award-winning school teacher, a middle school guidance counselor, and a small business owner. The group, comprised of three men and three women, range in age from 15 to 54. "Our riders are a true cross-section of our tribal community," observes Hicks, "and this experience offers a means for them to connect across generations and to learn from one another and about our history."

Not only do riders prepare physically for the ride that traces the northern Removal route, they take classes in leadership, the Cherokee language and tribal history. "In this way, ride participants become more immersed in our culture and serve as ambassadors of the Eastern Band as they set out across the country," says Hicks.

Hicks also emphasizes the fitness aspects of the ride. "Over the years, we have seen participants lose weight and become healthier," he says. "Some have even overcome diabetes, which is a significant health challenge among our people."

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SOURCE Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians