MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

June 26, 2014

Hard lesson worth the effort

Nineteen cyclists who traced the route of the Trail of Tears deserve our appreciation.

The cyclists recently completed the three-week, 950-mile ride in memory of their ancestors.

The Cherokee Nation created the ride in 1984 as a leadership program to encourage young members to never forget their ancestors’ hardship during their removal from the east to Indian Territory.

Thirteen riders were Cherokee Nation students and six were Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Keeley Godwin turned 22 on the trip. She said she had a mixture of emotions after the journey, including excitement, pain, and happiness.

“There are really no words,” Godwin said. “To think that we did this for our ancestors is indescribable.”

Riding a bicycle halfway across the country is an incredibly difficult thing to do.

It takes strength, stamina and perseverance.

Imagine what it was like to be forced to walk that distance without the benefit of asphalt or concrete roads.

Imagine what it was like to make the journey without the kind of support these cyclists had.

That’s a lesson in humility and leadership and heritage that will benefit the riders for a lifetime.

“They will be lifelong teachers of carrying on the history of the Cherokee people,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

The bicyclists’ journey began June 1 in New Echota, Ga. They rode through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas.

“They leave as kids, and come back as adults,” Baker said. “They will be changed forever.”

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