180 years have passed since the infamous "Trail of Tears"
when the government of the United States of America forcibly
removed members of what was then called, "the five civilized
tribes" -Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole-
from their ancestral homelands in the Southeast U.S. to
exile in Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).
Nightfall On The Trail Of Tears
Max D. Standley
This week, a group of ten cyclists from the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah,
Oklahoma will begin their journey to "Remember The Removal" by retracing
the footsteps of their ancestors on the Northern Trail of Tears.
The three week, 950-mile journey will take the cyclists from
Oklahoma to Cherokee, North Carolina where they will meet up with
another group of cyclists representing the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
Both groups will then depart for New Echota, Georgia- once the capital
of the Cherokee Nation-and from there travel through several states,
visiting museums and graveyards and other memorial sites
connected to the Trail of Tears before returning back to
Tahlequah on June 21st.
I think this bike ride will not only be a strenuous challenge to
the participants, but, makes a powerful statement of the importance
of remembering America's past. Much of our history as a nation
has been filled with violence and tragedy, especially in regards to
the often brutal and inhumane treatment of the American Indians.
The argument I often hear is that there was "cruelty on both sides
of the conflict" between the Indians and the ever increasing advance of
white settlers on the land, and while I am not disputing this,
I am more than convinced, as in the case of slavery, that
the idea of forcibly removing tribes like the Cherokee from their
ancestral homeland, was never in the plans of God for America.
I have Cherokee ancestry and it has long been a dream of mine
to walk the original Trail of Tears someday to honor my heritage.
May God bless and keep safe these cyclists on their journey.
Original Homelands Of The Five Civilized Tribes