By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has selected its representatives for the 2018 Remember the Removal Ride. Eight tribal members will join riders from the Cherokee Nation as they retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears on a 950-mile bike journey.
Representing the EBCI will be: Jan Smith, Seth Ledford, Lori Owle, Nolan Arkansas, Brooke Coggins, Darius Lambert, Ahli-sha Stephens, and Bo Taylor.
The first Remember the Removal ride was held in 1984 by citizens of the Cherokee Nation. Twenty-five years later, in 2009, the event was revitalized and has been held every year since. The Eastern Band of Cherokee joined the ride in 2011, and this year will mark the seventh year of participation for EBCI tribal members.
“I felt like I’d always wanted to do it, and I was going to try it,” said Smith, a 61-year-old retired educator currently residing in the Yellowhill Community. “We’ll see how it goes.”
She added, “Because I’m a tribal member and receive tons of benefits for being a tribal member and I just felt like I didn’t deserve those benefits but somebody made the sacrifice so I could have them. And, if this ride remembers that person or if I can answer any questions for anybody, that’s why I want to do it.”
Ledford, a 17-year-old junior at Smoky Mountain High School, is from the Wolftown Community and said he is very excited to go on the ride. “I was kind of nervous, but after a little while, it just went out and I got excited. I felt like I needed to do it to get closer to heritage and my culture, and I feel like it will be a really good thing for me.”
Owle, 47, Cherokee Indian Hospital satellite clinic manager from the Birdtown Community, commented, “Since they started the Removal Bike Ride, it was something that really intrigued me, and it was something that I really wanted to do to retrace the steps of my ancestors on the Removal back to Tahlequah.”
Arkansas, 17, a senior at Swain County High School is from the Wolftown Community. He noted, “There’s been such a need, especially lately, for the community to get back in touch with both their culture and their history. And, I felt that I should be a person to sort of propagate that and try to help out. I feel that the bike ride is one of the first steps I need to take in getting back into both the culture and history.”
Coggins, 23, will receive her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Western Carolina University in May. The Birdtown Community member said, “I feel the need to create a sense of community here and to gain some insight into what our ancestors went through. Everyone says we are resilient people, and I think this is a great opportunity to actually experience it first-hand – the resiliency and the feelings that our ancestors had.”
Darius Lambert, 16, a junior at Cherokee High School from the Wolftown Community, is inspired by his family. “I’ve had a lot of family who have done the ride in the past, and they’ve encouraged me to submit an application. I was in Oklahoma when my uncle (Kevin Tafoya) came back, and seeing him was really emotional. I talked to him afterwards, and he said he came back as a different person. Learning all of this history and biking 950 miles to Oklahoma just changed him.”
Stephens, 33, Cherokee Elementary School admin., is from the Birdtown Community. She is an assistant coach on the Cherokee Middle School and High School cross country and track teams. “I want do to this to test my endurance and push myself to accomplish riding half-way across the country and doing a bike ride that long. Even if you’re scared to do something, terrified even, push yourself and prove to yourself that you can face your fears – get out there and do it.”
Taylor, a 48-year-old from the Big Cove Community, works as the executive director for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. He was set to go on last year’s ride, but a crash days before departure derailed that plan. So, he’s giving it a go this year. Last year, Taylor told the One Feather, “It’s a challenge that I want to undertake. It’s a long way. I know it’s going to be physically, mentally, and spiritually challenging, but that’s something that I feel I need right now. I feel this is a time for me to reconnect with the culture again and get back to the grassroots of why I fell in love with the culture.”
The ride will depart in early June from New Echota, Ga. Look in the One Feather for more details on the 2018 ride as they are released.