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After gold was discovered in Georgia in 1829, the U.S. government created an illegal treaty with a small group of dissidents to remove all Cherokees from their homes and relocate them in the vast unknown "Indian Territory" to the west of Arkansas. The event took place over the winter months of 1838 through 1839 and became more commonly known as the Trail of Tears.
An estimated 16,000 Cherokees were forced at gunpoint to remove themselves and their families from their homes, farms and communities. After being held in federal stockades until deep winter, they were subsequently herded on overland and water routes that moved through territories that represent the present-day states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. More than 4,000 Cherokees died along the various routes from the harsh conditions of the crossing.
The Cherokee people spent decades recovering from the devastation of their forced removal and are now thriving in northeastern Oklahoma, where the Cherokee Nation literally rebuilt itself from the ground up in a new land. Other southeastern tribes suffered a similar fate, such as the Muscogee, the Seminole, the Chahta and the Chickasaw peoples.
Ride organizers of Remember the Removal hope to promote awareness of these significant events as Cherokee citizens re-visit the areas where the journey took place. Other goals of the Remember the Removal bike ride are to help educate Cherokee students about their tribe’s history and the difficulties associated with the Trail of Tears, and to promote the achievements of the modern Cherokee Nation to those along the route.
Remember the Removal is an annual bicycle ride commemorating the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from its homelands during the winter of 1838-39. This tour allows Cherokee Nation Citizens (ages 16-24 years of age) the opportunity to travel along the Trail of Tears that their ancestors traveled.
The goals of the program are to educate participants: 1)Teach the participants about Cherokee Nation history, language and culture; and 2)Develop the leadership skills of each participant.
The Cherokee Nation sponsors a team of young Cherokee citizens who meet up with a team representing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians near New Echota, Ga. The groups will ride the Northern Removal Trail.
Along the way, the group will explore and participate in activities that link the riders to the experiences their Cherokee ancestors endured during the removal. The tour will culminate with a homecoming event as the team arrives in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. This program has one of the largest media impact of any program in Cherokee Nation, which highlights and educates the reason Cherokee Nation is in Oklahoma today.