By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
KITUWAH MOUND – A total of 19 Cherokee riders are going on this year’s Remember the Removal Bike Ride – a 950-mile trek retracing the Trail of Tears. The ride starts in New Echota, Ga. on Sunday, June 7, and the riders are scheduled to pull into Tahlequah, Okla. on June 25.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be represented by seven riders including: Kelly Murphy, Jake Stephens, Corlee Thomas-Hill, Kevin Tafoya, Darius Thompson, Savannah Hicks and Matt Martens. The Cherokee Nation will be represented by Charles “Billy” Flint, Tristan Trumbla, Kayla Davis, Haylee Caviness, Tanner Crow, Shawna Harter, Maggie McKinnis, Wrighter Weavel, Caleb Cox, Alexis Watt, Tennessee Loy and Hailey Seago.
The riders were honored and given a send-off during an event held at the Kituwah Mound on Friday, June 5. Photos were taken, speeches were made, everyone shared a dinner, and the riders from the two tribes had a nice time to meet with each other before their journey began.
“We’re so ready,” said Savannah Hicks, one of the EBCI riders. “We’ve been training since January, and now it’s finally here. As a team, I feel like we’re ready, and I’m just ready to see how this experience changes me as a person.”
Fellow team member Darius Thompson commented, “I’m very excited. We’re ready, but once we get on the ride, the whole mindset changes in just thinking about what people went through. We’re on a bike. They were walking. It’s a humbling experience.”
Patricia Watkins, who completed the Remember the Removal Ride last year, gave some encouragement to this year’s riders. “Remember, you’re one team on this ride. You’re not Eastern Band. You’re not Western Band. You’re one Band on this trip. Remember why you’ve been chosen to do this bike ride.”
Principal Chief Michell Hicks, whose daughter Savannah is one of the EBCI riders this year, also encouraged the group at Friday’s event. “It’s always exciting to see you guys and recognize these riders…I know how hard the Eastern Band riders have worked, and I’m sure, equally, the Cherokee Nation has worked hard also. This continues to be an historical event. Anytime we can retrace our history, to learn, and more importantly, to understand the spirituality of that trip and how it has affected our lives.”
Sue Abram, North Carolina Trail of Tears Association, presented a $1,000 donation from her organization to be used to help fund this year’s trip. “I really salute you for what you’re about to do. I know it’s going to be a powerful experience for you.”
You can keep up with the riders and their progress on this year’s ride online at: https://www.facebook.com/removal.ride