Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Muldrow Student to Travel the Trail of Tears

Preparing for the Cherokee Nation Bike Ride are, from the left in front, Amber Anderson, Kelsey Girty, Kyla Holmes, and Nikki Lewis. In back, from the left, are trainer and Deputy Marshal Kevin Jackson, Kylar Trumbla, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Stephanie Hammer, Amicia Craig, Rikki Ross, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Glendon VanSandt and Blayn Workman.

The Cherokee Nation has selected 10 cyclists, including one from Sequoyah County, for its 2016 Remember the Removal Bike Ride this June.

The participant from Sequoyah County is Blayn Workman, 16, of Muldrow, a sophomore at Muldrow High School.

“I wanted to go on the bike ride to learn more about the trail my ancestors took,” said Workman. “Schools teach about the Treaty of New Echota but not the entire Trail of Tears history.”

The ride allows young Cherokees to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears by bicycle from Cherokee homelands in the Southeast to present-day Oklahoma, the ending point of the trail. 

The participants, ages 16-24, started training this month for the three-week journey, which starts in New Echota, Ga., on June 5.

“It’s totally worth all this,” said Amber Anderson, 23, who was born with her left leg two inches longer than her right and was told she’d never walk. “I never imagined being able to do this. It’s very special to me and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

She defied the odds. She now drives from Oklahoma City each weekend to train.

The Remember the Removal Bike Ride is a 950-mile journey that spans Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. This year, students were selected based on essays, interviews and a physical to ensure they were up for the grueling challenge.

“Being selected to participate in the Remember the Removal Bike Ride is an honor for these young tribal citizens. It will be a physical challenge, no doubt, but the reward is immense,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. 

The Cherokee Nation cyclists will be joined by seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from North Carolina for the ride.

They travel an average of 60 miles a day for three weeks, mirroring in part the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears.

A genealogist will map out each rider’s family tree prior to the trip, providing them with an insight into their ancestral past. The ride takes them to several Cherokee gravesites and historic landmarks, including Blythe’s Ferry in Tennessee, the westernmost edge of the old Cherokee Nation, and Mantle Rock in Kentucky, where Cherokees huddled together for warmth under a hanging rock, the only shelter they could find during a frigid winter.

The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony at 9 a.m. May 31 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The cyclists will drive to North Carolina to connect with the Eastern Band riders and then together start the ride June 5.

For more information on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride and photos, visit and

The 2016 Remember the Removal Bike Ride cyclists are:

From Adair County - Kyla Holmes, 16, from Bunch, Sequoyah High School, and Kylar Trumbla, 23, from Proctor, and a University of Central Oklahoma alumnus.

From Cherokee County - Amicia Craig, 24, Tahlequah, a student at Connors State College, Stephanie Hammer, 24, Tahlequah, a student at Northeastern State University, and Nikki Lewis, 23, Tahlequah, a Tabor College alumnus.

From Muskogee County - Kelsey Girty, 21, Warner, a student at Northeastern State University, and Rikki Ross, 17, Fort Gibson, a student at Fort Gibson High School.

From Sequoyah County - Blayn Workman, 16, Muldrow, a sophomore at Muldrow High School.

At Large - Amber Anderson, 23, Warr Acres, North Dakota State University, and Glendon VanSandt, 16, Siloam Springs, Ark., home schooled. 

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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