MEET THE RIDERS



Parker Weavel, 20, Tahlequah, Connors State College student

Why is it important to retrace your ancestorsʼ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
Itʼs important to retrace my ancestors steps so that I have an idea of the challenges they faced. Itʼs the missing piece in my life that Iʼve always been looking for. I know where Iʼm at but I want to know where I came from.

 

Whatʼs one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
Learning about the past generations within my own family is something Iʼm really looking forward to. Also Iʼm looking forward to seeing where we once were.

 

Tell us something that most people donʼt know about you?
I want to become a wildlife biologist.

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
My older brother did the ride three years ago and the entire experience changed his life. I was younger so I was wanting to wait until I was a little older to apply and now that I have been selected Iʼm trying my best to gain as much information as possible.

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
One goal is to finish the ride alongside all of my teammates, they have dedicated themselves to the bike ride and pushed themselves out of their own comfort zones to achieve what is possible. Also, what I really want to achieve is bringing back some of the tradition that was left in our original territory.

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee, to me means that I should treat everyone, and everything equally. It means I have an opportunity to be whoever I wish to be. It also means that no matter where I am I know that Iʼm not alone.


What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I want to experience as many things as possible.

 



 

Autumn Lawless, 21, Porum, NSU student

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
The ride is important to me because this tragedy happened to our people, and they deserve to be remembered. Their suffering was real and immense, and it still affects our people today. It’s important to learn about Removal so that we never forget what they endured and sacrificed for us to be here today. 

 

What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
I’m looking forward to meeting and learning about Eastern Band. All of us (Cherokee Nation Riders) are close and we know and care about one another, and I’m sure it will be the same with Eastern Band. I’m excited to learn more about them and for all of us to bond with each other. 

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I think the majority of people think I have everything figured out, where I’m going, what I’m going to do. In some ways, they would be right, I have thought long and hard about my future. But I’m just like everyone else, we all have struggles and I haven’t always had this picture perfect image of what my life will be. It’s great to have a plan and a direction, but real life usually requires adjustment regardless of how methodical you are. 

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
I’ve known past riders and I saw firsthand how this opportunity bettered them and transformed them. They were stronger, sharper, and they had a firm grasp on our past and our culture, I made it my number one priority to be selected for this experience. 

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
Just to make it. It doesn’t have to be pretty and it doesn’t have to be fast, I just want to be able to stand up beside my teammates and be able to say that I did this huge, crazy thing, and know in my heart that I gave this experience and my teammates everything I had. 

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee to me means persevering. Pushing through whatever life throws at you and thriving at whatever it is you’re pursuing. Also, caring for your friends, family, and those closest to you is an important part of being Cherokee. During the Removal, we didn’t leave anyone behind by choice. It’s like that with this team, no one gets left behind, we take care of each other. 

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
Strength. All of us are already so much stronger physically and mentally and we haven’t even left yet. We have also built confidence in ourselves and our team. Together we can make this journey, together we will survive this, honor our ancestors, and raise awareness about Removal and Cherokee culture. 

 



 

Courtney Cowan, 24, Kansas Okla., NSU graduate

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
I think it’s important to know where you’ve came from. I wanted to participate in this ride because I wanted to know more about our history and culture, I didn’t grow up traditionally so I have always wanted to know more about what it means to be Cherokee. The opportunity is what attracted me, what an amazing way to honor the people who made such a huge sacrifice.


What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
I definitely want to learn more about my family history.  I also just want to be back in Cherokee, NC again. The feeling of being back where we came from is something that can’t be explained, only felt. I am so excited for this journey.

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
The people that know me will know these things but to the people who don’t know me, I have a twin brother and I was a basketball player in college. Recently, I found out that I am a Nancy Ward descendant. I heard about the ride from a former rider/friend. I kept up with them on the ride and ended up keeping up with the ride on social media and falling in love with the way the riders came back. The rider’s perspective changed and I feel like I need that at this point in my life.


Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
My goal for this ride is to take in all that I can and to gain a deeper connection to my culture. I want to enjoy every second of it and to not give up when times get tough. Our ancestors endured so much, so it’s just a huge opportunity to honor them in everything they have done.


What does being Cherokee mean to you?
The Cherokee people are resilient; we have endured so much throughout history. I think that’s what makes us who we are. So to me that’s what being Cherokee is all about. Coming from such a strong group of people is something I am very proud to be a part of.


What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to gain a better connection to my culture. I hope to have more confidence in myself and come back from this journey with a new perspective about our people and in life in general. I am a part of a great team, I couldn’t ask for better teammates so I hope to have lasting friendships after this ride as well. This is going to be something this team will never forget, and overall that’s the whole point of this journey. 

 



 

Amari McCoy, 21, Sallisaw, Carl Albert College student

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
It's important for us to do the bike ride to remember the involuntary sacrifice our ancestors made for us to be here. 

 

What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
One thing I want to see is what my ancestors saw when they turned around and looked at the mountains for the last time before leaving their homelands. 

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
Something most people don't know about me is that I like classic country music (I love me some Merle).

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
I heard about the bike ride because I've seen my cousins, Sarah and Lane Holcomb, be involved with the program for a while now,

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
A goal I've set for my teammates and I is to finish this the same way we started it, together. 

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee means everything to me, it's all I've ever known. It's who I am, who I come from and who I will continue to be. 

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to take away a better sense of where I came from, what I'm capable of, and what my ancestors endured during removal. 

 



 

Emilee Chavez, 18, Tahlequah, Sequoyah High School 2018 graduate

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
I have realized as I’ve grown older that it’s important to who I am to know all sides of the story that I come from. I hope to participate in the bike ride because I think it’s important to individuals to know who they are and how this can affect their futures for not only them, but for their families.

 

What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
I want to learn more about the details in the history that have been erased from common knowledge and history books. I’d like to be able to see for myself people from the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band coming together again to honor our ancestors as we used to be in our homelands.

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I love learning foreign languages. I grew up going to the Immersion program and found out later that I have a knack for learning languages easily. I’m currently self-teaching myself Swedish and trying to learn more in the linguistics and grammar area of Cherokee.

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
My dad was a legacy rider from 1984 and works for the newspaper. We followed the group from 2011, but I never considered participating until after my older brother did it in 2015. I wanted to wait until I had enough time to dedicate to it before I applied, though.

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
I hope to be able to finish it without getting hurt too bad (both my dad and older brother had wrecks in training or during the ride), but also just to be able to conquer something that I haven’t been able to do before.

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
It means representing the culture and understanding it, preserving it, and furthering it for future generations. It means respecting the language, the history, and the people of it.

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to become stronger mentally and physically, as well as learn the importance of working with a team.

 



 

Dale Eagle, 23, Tahlequah, Transport driver at W.W. Hastings Hospital

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
This ride is important for me; because, I may learn more of my culture as well as see where my ancestors came from. I also want to take everything I learn from this experience and one day pass all my knowledge on to new generations of Cherokee, so that our culture stays alive.

 

What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
I would love to see where my ancestors came from, as well as see how this ride makes me and my fellow riders grow as people.

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
One thing most people do not know about me is that I suffer from severe depression. I have been feeling much happier around my fellow riders.

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
I heard about the Bike ride from my supervisor from when I worked at Sonic. She was telling me how her son is on the ride and that it would be great for me to do. She believed it would help with my Social Anxiety, and my Depression. She was right.

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
My goal for myself is to learn to appreciate myself. I want to believe I can do anything I set my mind too, which is why completing this ride will help me complete my goal.

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee to me means having the responsibility to keep my Culture and language alive. We do have a beautiful Culture, games, and history. I do not want any of these to fade into the past.

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to take away more knowledge and understanding of my Native American Culture. I also hope to learn to be myself and be happy, but most importantly I want to take with me the memories of my fellow friends and riders.

 



 

Lily Drywater, 20, Tahlequah, NSU student

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
I am participating in the Bike Ride this year because I want to know where I come from. Being Cherokee is a huge part of my identity and The Removal is huge part of our history. I want to learn how resilient my ancestors were, and to further realize how strong I am. 

 

What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
During the ride, I hope to see myself and my teammates accomplish this task set in front of us, as a team. I hope we all get stronger together every day, and I hope we will be able to depend on each other on our bad days. I know the ride will not be easy, but I know we can do it if we stay a team.

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
Well, I have a huge family. My dad's parents had eight (nine?) kids and they each had 4-5 kids, and some of them have kids. Then there are those sort of lumped in who we call family, like spouses. I don't know how many cousins I have, honestly. 

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
I heard about the Bike Ride while at Sequoyah High School, maybe my sophomore year. I remember a story about one of students participating in the ride, writing his name on the road using the water they were supposed to be drinking. 

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
My main goal to achieve on this ride is to get through every day with a positive attitude. I think this could be accomplished thanks to my team. We are all very supportive of each other, and even during training we try to stay positive every day. 

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee means to honor my ancestors every day by speaking the language, learning as much as I can about our traditions and culture, and to remember where we come from as a tribe. My job makes these things easier, because I work in the Diligwa village at the Cherokee Heritage Center. I get to work on traditional crafts every day, and constantly be around other Cherokees who have a similar attitude.

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to take away a stronger knowledge of the struggles my people have endured to get to where we are today. I hope to learn as much about my people as I can.

 



 

Jennifer Barger Johnson, 47, Sallisaw, UCO Professor, Municipal Judge and Attorney


Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
It is important to retrace my ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride because it honors the memory of all those who were forced into removal including those who perished along the way. It also helps raise awareness of the Removal Trail, and what has been done to us as a tribal people. I also recognize the generational trauma that exists in our tribe (and many other tribes), and recognize that my children have that battle to face despite being so removed from the events of our history.  By being so close to those events on this journey, I hope that I can better understand how to cope.  

 

What’s the one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
I want to see the locations that our ancestors were in as they took that journey. I want to see the terrain that they faced and experience the magnitude of the distance that they were forced to take on foot without adequate food, shelter, and clothing.   

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
As a Municipal Judge/Professor/Attorney, most people assume that I am extroverted and very outgoing. I am actually an introverted person who enjoys solitude. I am much more comfortable speaking in front of a room full of people than one-on-one with anyone. This experience is going to be a challenge for me in that way as well.

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal Ride?
I heard about the original ride because I grew up with Will Chavez (an original rider and last year’s Mentor Rider).  I heard about it again about five years ago as the 2013 group returned to Tahlequah.  I also followed the journey closely back in 2015 and 2016 when dear friends were RTR Riders.  An Alumni Rider was actually my student at UCO and I wrote a reference letter for him and his brother a few years back when they each applied for the ride.

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
My primary goal for the ride is to never forget why we are doing the ride.  In those moments when I feel like I can’t go any further to remember that our ancestors did not have that choice.  Hopefully that will help me dig deep and push through any physical or mental exhaustion I might experience.

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee means everything to me.  After having children, I recognized how important it was to keep our heritage and our history alive.  I see how little is taught about the tribal nations in our public school curriculum and it frustrates me.  Despite having Cherokee blood on both sides of my family, my parents’ generation did not learn or teach the traditional ways to our generation.  I try to teach my children as much as I can.  

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to have a better understanding of what our ancestors faced.  I hope to have a better understanding of my physical and mental limits.  I hope to make my family proud, but most of all my children, Samuel (age 10) and Olivia (age 8).

 



 

Sky Wildcat, 22, Tahlequah, NSU Graduate Assistant

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride?
We need to understand the resilience that we come from. If we can travel where they walked, see the places the they were forced to stay at and imagine the conditions they were under, and experience maybe an ounce of struggle that they went through, then we can understand what it means to carry on a legacy and put that forth in our everyday life.

 

What’s the one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
I want to see teamwork and leadership from riders who never thought they would be capable of doing something like this. 

 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I read music and play the piano.

 

How did you hear about the Remember the Removal Ride?
I have a lot of friends who have become like family that completed the ride. They talk about their experiences and how much it changed them. 

 

Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
A personal goal I have on the ride is to not have to trailer up.

 

What does being Cherokee mean to you?
Being Cherokee means having strength. It means having the ability to continue. And it means having a family tree that never seems to end. 

 

What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
I hope to grow stronger physically and mentally. Mentally, I unintentionally set a lot of barriers for myself that are hard to overcome. I hope I can end this ride with affirmation that I can do anything I set my mind to.

 



 

Daulton Cochran, 21, Bell Community Stilwell, TCC student and Spider Gallery Clerk

Why is it important to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and participate in the bike ride? 
Because I feel it necessary to attempt to understand just a portion of what our ancestors went through for us to have a chance as a future generation. 


What’s one thing in particular you want to learn about or see on the ride?
Mantle Rock.  I've heard from numerous people that it is an experience that needs to be felt to be understood.


Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I enjoy traveling.  I've been throughout the southern states,  down into Mexico, London, Paris, Rome. But I'll always come home to Oklahoma.


How did you hear about the Remember the Removal ride?
From numerous alumni riders that I have known either through school or through my community.


Any goal you set for yourself on the ride?
To finish strong and truly appreciate and enjoy the experience. 


What does being Cherokee mean to you?
It's all I've ever been. It means family and community. It's past, present, and future of not just my family but my community and tribe. I don't think I could ever narrow it down to one thing. 


What do you hope to take away from this experience on the ride?
A better understanding and connection to my ancestors