By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Remember the Removal Ride is a grueling 950-mile bicycle ride from New Echota, Ga. to Tahlequah, Okla. that retraces the footsteps taken by Cherokee people on the Trail of the Tears. This June, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will once again take part in this event with riders from the Cherokee Nation.
A total of eight EBCI tribal members will participate in the ride including: Chi Sawyer Shipman, Jeremy Hyatt, Jeremy Wilson, Judy Castorena, Skye Littledave, Carmen Johnson, Tatsi Nelson and Principal Chief Michell Hicks.
The ride is scheduled to start from New Echota on Monday, June 4.
“The big thing for me it that it’s a retrace, and it’s a matter of learning more about our history by having your feet on the ground,” said Chief Hicks who will ride as much of the trip as his schedule allows. “I know it is going to be tough and grueling. I’m not going to do the entire trip, but I’m going to do as much as I can.”
He said it is important to him to retrace the footsteps of Cherokee ancestors. “I want to walk those footsteps. Obviously, it won’t be in the same manner, but there’s an emotional aspect that I am really excited about.”
Judy Castorena is a physical education teacher at the Cherokee Elementary School. “I decided to go on the ride last year when I first heard about this. I went out and bought a bike and just thought that this was something that I really wanted to do. And, then when I found out what it was about, the meaning was just so much more than I can comprehend. I just thought what a phenomenal experience this would be for me individually.”
She also hopes the ride will help set a good example for her students. “I want to let my students know that no matter what happens in life they can always set a goal and accomplish it. It will mean a lot to me, a lot to my family and a lot to my students as well; let them see that if I can do it, they can do it.”
Chi Sawyer Shipman commented, “I really wanted to do this for my family so I could give them an idea of what we went through as a people.”
She said she also wants to complete the ride for her daughter. “She is three years old and I want to be able to share a piece of her history and a piece of her culture with her.”
Skye Littledave is a fitness assistant at the Cherokee Life Center and a member of the Cherokee Runners. “I
decided to join the 2012 Remember the Removal Ride mostly for the people of the reservation because I am a fitness assistant and we have such a problem with diabetes and heart problems and just health problems in general. I just did this for our people to say ‘yes, you can do this, be strong and get healthier.’”
Jeremy Wilson, a fitness instructor at the Cherokee Life Center, said he didn’t give the ride much thought at first because he hadn’t ridden a bicycle in so many years. “But, for some reason, on the last day of application it became a calling of sorts and I felt that I needed to do this for several
purposes. There’s a lot that it would impact for me as far as challenging myself physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I just think it’s going to be a life-changing experience all around.”
Jeremy Hyatt, EBCI tribal administrator, has been a mountain bike enthusiast for years and has gotten into road cycling in the last year and a half. “I am very much looking forward to it.”
“This trip is 950 miles, and it’s going to tax us
physically, probably beyond what I have ever done before, but I’m looking forward to that challenge and, in addition to that, being able to learn culturally. I am not a student of the Trail of Tears. I am not a student of Cherokee history as much as I should be, and this will be a wonderful opportunity to learn it first-hand and to see it for myself and to experience things
that I’ve only read about.”