Young Cherokees revisit the route of their ancestors

It’s not your usual idea of a themed cycle route, but it’s one that will certainly provoke thought among an eight-strong group of cyclists who will travel across parts of the United States later this summer.

The eight are all of Cherokee descent, and they will be following a 1,000 mile route called the Trail of Tears which their ancestors walked after forced removal from their native lands.

The ‘Remembering the Removal’ ride begins in Rome, Georgia, near the old Cherokee capital of New Echota and follows the northern route of the train through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Along the way, the cyclists will camp at night, visit and learn about historical sites intertwined with the forced march, and visit the known graves of those who could not complete the journey.

The Trail of Tears was the result of the forced removal of American Indian tribes in the southeastern United States in the 1830s to what was then Indian Territory. Although the Choctaws, Seminoles, Creeks, Chickasaws and Cherokees had different circumstances surrounding their removal thousands of American Indians died on the way to what is now Oklahoma.

The Cherokees experienced brutal conditions and were put into concentration camps where disease, misery and death were rampant before being forced to march through snow and ice to a land most had never seen before.

Of course, the journey is nowhere near as arduous for their cycling descendants, but at 55 miles a day they have had to put in some hard training, particularly as they will be riding through searing temperatures.

Todd Enlow, a trip chaperone, said: "This is about teaching this group of riders about themselves as well as the history. They might not have ever considered doing something like this, but when they're finished with this, they'll know what they thought was their limit they can go beyond and dream."

The only woman rider in the group, 20-year-old Sarah Holcomb, said: "It means a lot to be able to ride where my ancestors walked. I know it's going to be hard. I'm a very determined person. I want to be able to make it through. I'm ready to start riding."