By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Tara McCoy retraced the footsteps of her ancestors last summer as she participated in the 2011 Remember the Removal Ride, a 950-mile bicycle ride retracing the Trail of Tears from Georgia to Oklahoma.
“I always wanted to do something monumental,” she told a group of individuals in the Right Path program, a year-long adult leadership program developed by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, during a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9.
McCoy, a 2011 graduate of the Right Path program, currently works in the mentoring program at Cherokee Choices.
“There was a lot of history along this trail,” she said. “Physically, it’s tiring; emotionally, you hear about all of the tragedy; but spiritually, it was uplifting.”
She said during their trip, the group visited sites along the way including stockades which held Cherokees, houses and even gravesites.
McCoy said the hardest part of the trip was the mental part of knowing that you had to ride upwards of 75 miles in a day. She said they covered seven states and did four states in four days.
Missouri, or “Misery” as it was known by the riders, was a different story. “That was the hardest state. It took us 10 days to get through it.”
The riders also endured the elements on the trip. “That wind can be a beast. That sun felt like it was melting you.”
She jokingly added spandex as a hardship on the trip, “It’s still hard to get used to.”
Juanita Wilson is the program manager for Right Path. “The Right Path program mission is two fold: 1) to give participants the resources and tools to embrace and embark on a life-long learning process for what it means to be a Cherokee leader who makes decisions based on how he or she sees the world through a cultural lens; 2) to learn about and embrace the philosophy of ‘ga-du-gi’ or ‘selfless service to others’.”
She said that in addition to McCoy, Matthew Tooni, also a Right Path graduate, has come back to share his knowledge with the latest crop of students. The current group consists of: Jeremy Wilson, Damion Solis, Patrick Hill, Kelly Murphy, Monica Wildcatt, Michael Thompson, Lucretia Hicks and Janet Owle.
“They ‘gave back’ by sharing with those who came after them,” said Juanita Wilson. “I hope they will continue to do so and perhaps become active mentors to the new leaders and those yet to come.”