By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Remember the Removal Ride (RTR), which retraces the northern route of the Trail of Tears, will not be held this year due to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19). Officials from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the Cherokee Nation announced on the afternoon of Thursday, May 14 that the ride has been cancelled.
“While I regret that the Remember the Removal ride will be delayed until next year, I appreciate the steps being taken to keep our tribal citizens safe,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, himself a RTR alumni. “The EBCI and Cherokee Nation staff, and volunteers, do a remarkable job preparing and supporting the RTR riders each year. Their hard work to educate the RTR participants and create opportunities for real life learning and reflection leave lasting memories with the riders.”
He added, “I see the impact this ride has on our tribal citizens and the appreciation and respect they get from completing this ride. I look forward to sending off and celebrating the completion of the ride with the RTR riders even if we have to wait a bit longer to do so.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said, “The Remember the Removal bike ride is a tremendously important program for our Cherokee youth to learn the history and honor the legacy of their ancestors who endured some of the worst tragedy in the history of the great Cherokee Nation. There is not another life-changing opportunity like this ride. However, this year, with the threat of COVID-19, we simply cannot jeopardize the rider’s health and safety nor that or our coordinators and all the volunteers who meet us along the Trail of Tears route.”
The ride itself, around 950 miles, covers seven states – starting at New Echota, Ga. and ending in Tahlequah, Okla. with Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas in between.
Corlee Thomas-Hill, Remember the Removal ride coordinator for the EBCI, commented, “EBCI riders selected for the 2020 ride will be automatically selected for the June 2021 ride. At this time, no application process for the 2021 ride is planned for the EBCI. We appreciate the time and dedication that the riders have put into the past months as well as their understanding and patience during this time. We would also like to thank Chief Sneed for his continued support during this challenging time.”
The 2020 RTR riders representing the EBCI include: Nike West, Ethan Ledford, Justin Lambert, Laura Blythe, Raylen Bark, Emra Arkansas, Shayla Jackson, Drew Johnson, Bear Allison, and Barak Myers.
Blythe noted, “Currently, I still plan to participate in the 2021 ride. The hardest part is being able to say yes 100 percent. The program is a huge commitment and over the course of a year many things can happen.”
She has been training diligently throughout the spring and said she’s developed bonds with her teammates. “We’ve all come together in these uncertain times. I have developed a love for cycling. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done to help with stress, anxiety, and overall health improvement. I’ve been able to inspire my family to get out and ride with me which is something I never imagined we would do together. Cycling has opened up a great new network, and I’ve met some great people I otherwise may have never gotten to know.”
When thinking about next year’s ride, she noted, “It looks like we have 18 months to train instead of five. If we can all go, we’ll be ready! I hope that we can all find a way to stay together as a team and get rolling next June. We will have more time to do our history, genealogy, and language class which I am thankful for.”