TAHLEQUAH — After traveling 950 miles retracing their ancestors’ footsteps along the northern route of the Trail of Tears, the 2013 Remember the Removal bike riders will end their journey Friday, arriving in Tahlequah to family and friends.
“The ride has been an amazing experience. It has shaped my perspective of what our ancestors encountered along the trail,” said rider Jon Ross, 23, of Tahlequah, who traces his lineage to Chief John Ross. “It’s been a hard trek, but the struggles offer a small taste of what our ancestors experienced many years ago.”
The riders averaged 60 miles per day, starting in New Echota, Ga., on June 3, and traveled across Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas to end at the Cherokee Nation courthouse in downtown Tahlequah. The riders will return to a celebration, including food, speakers and entertainment.
The Remember the Removal Bike Ride was started at the Cherokee Nation in 1984 so Cherokee youth would never forget the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot. Of the estimated 16,000 forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, approximately 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease. The riders travel through seven states over three weeks, stopping at gravesites and historic landmarks along the Trail of Tears.