By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Six members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) have been selected to participate in the 2023 Remember the Removal (RTR) Ride which will retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears this June. The riders will join participants from the Cherokee Nation on the journey from New Echota, Ga. to Tahlequah, Okla.
This year’s EBCI riders include: Destiny Mills, Nelson Lambert, Rae Queen, Judge Sunshine Parker, Venita Wolfe, and Villareal Nika West.
The annual RTR send-off event will be held at Kituwah on Friday, June 2, and the riders will depart New Echota on Monday, June 5. The riders will complete their journey in Tahlequah on Friday, June 23.
Wolfe, 47, of the Big Cove Community, commented, “Since I came here, I’ve wanted to do the ride. It’s a challenge first of all, but second of all, I want to really connect to being Cherokee. I’m of three tribes (EBCI, Zuni, and Navajo), but my fire is here in Cherokee. So, I just really wanted to connect with that side. I just feel like this is home to me, and I think going on the ride is really going to help cement that and really just be proud of being Cherokee.”
Mills, 20, of the Wolftown Community, said, “I am really looking forward to the challenge. When I was Teen Miss Cherokee in 2019, I got the opportunity to be there when the riders came into Tahlequah. I could just feel the challenge they went through and the experience they had, and I want to experience that for myself.”
She is looking forward to learning more about her family history. “From my mother’s side, I heard a story about my family members from that time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that story combines into our genealogy. And, if I have any family members out in Oklahoma, that’d be cool too.”
Lambert, 34, of the Birdtown Community, said, “In 2016, my son was born and that was a life-changing experience. Since then, my daughter has been born and I’ve had a lot of accomplishments and some setbacks. I’m at a point in my life where I just need to rehabilitate my mind, body, and spirit. I just want to take this journey and remember the past so I can move on and start a new future just being stronger and being more connected to the community and our people.”
He said the ride has been described by others as “life-changing” and he wants to learn more about Cherokee culture and history and experience that for himself. Lambert is looking forward to starting in New Echota and seeing where the Treaty of New Echota was signed and learning more about Major Ridge and John Ross. “I want to learn about these big people in our history and walking in their footsteps and just trying to feel a tie and connection to that is what I’m looking for.”
Rae Queen, 41, of the Big Cove Community, “I’ve lost a lot of weight. I lost 80 pounds two years ago, and I’ve gotten really lazy and a lot of big things have happened in my life. So, I think this is trying to get me back on track and I’m excited to be in this big family of riders.”
She added, “I want to learn more about what our people went through…everyone says it’s really life-changing and I’m looking forward to it.”
Judge Sunshine Parker, 40, Yellowhill Community, “This is the year that I feel I’m in the best position to do this ride. I have the most flexibility in my job. I have the most time to get into the shape I need to be in to do the ride, and it just felt like the right time to learn more about my history, learn more about the Tribe and how we got where we’re at, and to do something to challenge myself.”
“I talked to a lot of the RTR alumni riders, and they all talk about how they feel this real connection back to their culture that they hadn’t necessarily felt before. I know the legal history. I know how the treaties were formed and how we got where we’re at, but I don’t necessarily feel that real connection back to my culture itself. So, I’m really hoping to get that.”
West, 44, was selected for the 2020 Ride that was cancelled due to COVID-19. He told the One Feather previously, “One thing for me is to learn more about who I am and who my family is through the genealogy – and just the heartache that went on on the Trail of Tears.”