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Cyclists from 2 Cherokee tribes are retracing the Trail of Tears


A group of cyclists from two Cherokee tribes is retracing the Trail of Tears this month. They stop at landmarks where their ancestors camped - and an estimated 4,000 tribal members died - during the forced removal, nearly 200 years ago. Hannah Saad, with member station WKMS, caught up with the cyclists on a stop in Kentucky.


HANNAH SAAD, BYLINE: As part of a nearly 950-mile trek across parts of the U.S, 17 cyclists from the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently visited the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville, Ky.

WILL CHAVEZ: Thank you all for inviting us to this dedication. We're honored to be here.

SAAD: They were here to help dedicate the first information sign in both Cherokee and English on the National Historic Trail, which follows the path of the forced relocation of their tribes by the U.S. government that started in 1838. Now, 19-year-old Jaslyn Christie is biking the trail. She is a member of the Cherokee Nation from Park Hill, Okla. She's enjoying a barbecue after the dedication, as they were done biking for the day.

JASLYN CHRISTIE: It's been difficult. It's been very challenging for me, but I feel like I've been really learning a lot about myself, learning a lot about how much - how far I can go, how much I can push myself.

SAAD: She's spending the summer between high school and college connecting to her heritage. After hearing about the ride from friends and family, she applied for the free trip. She had to write an essay, do an interview, pass a physical and train for the multi-state journey in summer heat - but she says it's all worth it.

CHRISTIE: Learning more about this and learning how tragic it's been and all the details about it has been definitely a hard experience for me, but it just means everything to me 'cause I can teach other people and I can tell other people about it.

SAAD: These Remember the Removal bike rides have been happening for 40 years, off and on, with mostly young riders between the ages of 18 and 25.


SAAD: The next morning, the cyclists met by a creek at a site Cherokees once camped on the Trail of Tears. They get in a circle to pump themselves up for the next leg of their journey, and perform a war cry.






SAAD: Group coordinator Will Chavez was one of the original cyclists on the inaugural Remember the Removal ride in 1984. He says the thought behind it was to find a challenge that would teach young Cherokee adults about their tribe's past.

CHAVEZ: We have a great team this year that is carrying on that legacy of sharing our history, and sharing our culture, and sharing the story of what happened to our people.

SAAD: The cyclists are scheduled to end their journey in Tahlequah, Okla., - the capital of the Cherokee Nation - on June 21. For NPR News, I'm Hannah Saad in Hopkinsville, Ky.

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Hannah Saad
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