By JEREMY WILSON
Jeremy Wilson has recently been awarded a scholarship by the Trail of Tears Association (TOTA) to attend a conference and symposium on Oct. 22–25, hosted by the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and TOTA’s Oklahoma Chapter. Each year a national conference is hosted by the Association in conjunction with one of the nine state chapters. The chapters are located in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. At these conferences, attendees have the opportunity to learn about new discoveries and current research along the Trail as well as experience cultural activities through lectures and tours.
As a past participant in June’s ride, Wilson will be presenting on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride. This commemorative ride for the Trail of Tears consisted of members from the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band. Departing from New Echota, Georgia, the team rode road bikes on the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The route from Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma was roughly 1,000 miles.
He plans on giving his version on what he experienced on the ride, what it meant to him, and how it impacted him. Wilson also plans on acknowledging the EBCI riders who rode in 2011. This year was the second time the EBCI participated in the ride. It was a real eye-opener for him while biking on the trail, and some people have claimed that the ride will change your life. He believes that is true, but for him personally, it didn’t so much change Wilson, but it definitely improved and matured him. It made him lose any sense of entitlement of being a Cherokee. Wilson finally realized what it means to know where you come from and discover who you are as a Cherokee.
It gave him a sense of what it must have been like for our ancestors on the Trail. It was places like Mantle Rock, Ky., his favorite place,that impacted him greatly. Here was where 1,800 Cherokees were stuffed in a cave-like rock for two weeks during the harsh winter until the Ohio River froze over. Although none of the team has experienced the real hardships they (ancestors) endured, they, the riders, definitely felt an energy and connection at some point along the trail. He felt that if they stopped for a break or if he just stopped pedaling because he was tired or hurting, he had failed his people. Anytime he felt like stopping, he would remember the reason he did the ride and he would keep pedaling. Those are the kinds of experiences he plans to share at the conference through photos and possibly video. Wilson hopes to give the audience a visual sense of what it was like.
For information about the conference, go to www.nationaltota.org