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 Tears. This June, six members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will embark on this journey of a lifetime with riders from the Cherokee Nation.
The ride will take place June 1-21 with the following EBCI riders participating: Russell Bigmeat, Pat Watkins, Kelsey Standingdeer Owle, Katie Sneed, Richie Sneed, and Ty Bushyhead.
“This bike ride means more than just a physical challenge to me,” said Bigmeat, an 18-year-old from the Wolftown Community who is a senior at Swain County High School. “This ride gives our people a sense of pride in knowing that we are able to overcome the Trail of Tears over and over. I believe this bike ride is a tradition that we should continue in our community for many years to come.”
Watkins, 53, from the Birdtown Community, is an evidence clerk with the Cherokee Indian Police Department. “One of the reasons I want to do this ride is to honor our Tribe and the members that we lost during that time. Also, I want to be an inspiration to my family, to my kids and to my grandkids. If you want to do something, don’t let age or circumstances keep you from trying.”
Owle got interested in the ride through her husband, Joseph Owle, who participated in last year’s ride. “It was such a wonderful experience for him, and he came back with such wonderful stories, and for me, that’s what this is, an experience. I really want to experience everything that this has to offer.”
She went on to say, “I’ve never had to push myself this hard before. I played sports in school, but it was never to this level. It was never a 1,000 mile bike ride. That’s just an amazing adventure I want to go on, and I think it’s going to be a great experience for me.”
Katie Sneed, 14, a student at Jackson County Early College, will be making the journey with her father, Richie Sneed, 46, a teacher at Cherokee High School.
Katie related, “I was going to go on the Costa Rica (Eco-Study Tour) trip with my sister, but they don’t accept siblings so my dad asked me if I wanted to go on the bike ride, and I said, ‘well, that sounds really interesting’, and the more I learned about it I got really excited.”
Richie said, “I’m excited about it. It’s going to be a great challenge, and I’m always up for a challenge. I think it’s going to create a lot of great memories for the group. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the group begins to bond and gel in going through the training process and then when the ride starts.”
He has participated in events such as this before. In 1984, at age 16, he was one of the Red Clay Runners. “This is kind of another link in the chain or a page in the story.”
Ty Bushyhead, 29, from the Painttown Community, commented, “I’m excited about the ride. When I first found out about it, I was looking forward to building friendships and camaraderie and remembering the people who took the path before us. That just gave me motivation. One of my great-grandfathers, Jessie Bushyhead, was the leader of the third detachment of people so, for me, I’ll be following in his footsteps and rekindling that spirit and memory.”