By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The 2020 Remember the Removal riders were disappointed when the event, which retraces the northern route of the Trail of Tears from Georgia to Oklahoma, was cancelled last month due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Now, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ (EBCI) contingent are changing gears and will take their bicycles and tour Cherokee historical and cultural sites in western North Carolina as part of what they are calling the Remember the Remained ride.
“Right now, it is about trying to provide a similar experience to the Remember the Removal bike ride whereas the Eastern Band can do these rides to historic and sacred sites,” said Bear Allison, one of the co-organizers of the ride. “We want to honor those ancestors who remained, resisted, or returned from the Removal.”
The Remember the Remained event is not yet a sanctioned EBCI tribal event; just one that some of the EBCI tribal members who were chosen for the 2020 Remember the Removal ride are doing on their own. They do hope that the Remember the Remained event can possibly turn into an annual event to bring more awareness to important Cherokee sites in the east.
“Bear (Allison) came up with the idea, and we have a lot of local historical sites that not a lot of us know about here,” said Laura Blythe, ride co-organizer with Allison.
Blythe said there will be five different routes in the Remember the Remained ride including: Robbinsville Route, Cullowhee Route, Murphy/Andrews/Hayesville Route, Kituwah Route, and the Franklin Route. Those routes will take the riders to various Cherokee sites such as the Kituwah Mound, Nikwasi Mound, Tallulah Mound, Water Beetle Place, Fort Montgomery, and others.
The routes will vary from 45 to 60 miles each and will be completed in one day apiece starting with the Robbinsville Route on Saturday, June 13. Allison and Blythe thanked Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha who will serve the riders lunch during their Saturday event.
“I think this is a great idea that the Tribe can benefit from after it is done,” she said.
Allison said, “Most of our ancestors remained here. So, this is something that we can do that carries more significance and remembrance to our ancestors.”
He has lined up presenters to meet the riders on each route to discuss various historical and cultural aspects of Cherokee culture. The presenters include: TJ Holland, EBCI cultural resources supervisor; Dr. Brett Riggs, Western Carolina University’s (WCU) Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies; Tom Belt, WCU Cherokee Language Program coordinator and fluent Cherokee speaker; Kathi Littlejohn, noted EBCI storyteller; and Ben Steere, WCU associate professor and director of Cherokee Studies.
In speaking about the ride’s significance, Allison noted, “The main reason for me signing up to the Removal ride was to learn if there were any ancestors I may have had that may have gone on the Removal. Since COVID and weather resulted in a lot of the genealogy classes being cancelled, we didn’t get to finish that and find out if I had any. I wanted to honor those that did go even if I didn’t have or don’t have any one that had gone, but my purpose for doing the ride kind of fizzles out. But, I also wanted to know why is the Eastern Band participating in this ride if the majority of us didn’t have ancestors that were removed.”
He said the Remember the Remained ride hits closer to home, “This helps to bring more purpose for me and is something I can do to honor those ones that did stay. I feel if our teammates can share in that then it can bring us closer together.”
Blythe said the majority of the 2020 Remember the Removal EBCI team is planning to participate in the Remember the Remained ride. “I feel like a lot of people are detached from who they are as Cherokee people…what were the sacrifices? Where did we come from? How much did we lose as a Tribe – before the removal, during the removal, and even after the removal we were still having to make sacrifices.”
She went on to say, “This ride will help open up all of our eyes. As Cherokee people, and as Native Americans, it’s always good to know where you come from and what is your background especially since we have such a long and rich history. And, there are a lot of people who don’t even know that some of these sites exist.”
Both Blythe and Allison are already looking to the future possibilities of the Remember the Remained event.
“This could be as expansive as going to Tennessee,” said Blythe. “There’s a lot of cultural sites over there. It’s not just western North Carolina. There were towns in upper South Carolina, northern Georgia; so, we could make a 1,000-mile ride out of that.”
The Remember the Remained team is asking for community support for donations of water, Gatorade, snacks, etc. for the riders. If you would like to help, contact Blythe at email@example.com or Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org.