Remember the Removal riders explore historic sites
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Jun 03, 2014 | 1222 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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KATIE SNEED and her father Richard, along with Jordan McLaren, joined in the ride along the Trail of Tears. Richard has wanted to join the ride for several years and finally got the opportunity to participate.
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They came and now they have gone.

Somewhat like the ancestors whose historic trail they now are following.

The Eastern Band of the Cherokees, along with members of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Okla., met to ride 950 miles along the Trail of Tears. They began their journey Sunday, visiting and leaving the former Cherokee capital in New Echota.

In the early 1800s, Principal Chief John Ross and his government were forced from Georgia lands, crossing the border into Tennessee, where their final capital prior to the forced removal west was made.

Students and even parents joined the annual ride this year, which has been held for the past 30 years.

Will Chavez was one of the riders in the inaugural event appropriately named the Trail of Tears Remember the Removal bike ride.

Chavez’s son, Jacob, is among the riders learning the history and trials of their ancestors, as well as finding out about themselves.

Jordan McLaren learned she was kin to Cherokee Chief Joseph Vann.

“We got to tour the house Sunday,” McLaren said.

She also learned she was a descendant of Lewis Ross.

Her cousin Jon Ross was a participant in last year’s ride. Lewis Ross was the principal chief’s brother and business partner. Jon Ross was Lewis Ross’ great-great-great-great-grandchild, as is McLaren. Ross’s Landing, now known as the city of Chattanooga, was named after the brothers who established many trading posts throughout the Cherokee Nation and other parts of the South.

Jack Baker, who serves on the Cherokee National Council, explained to the riders Monday, as they took a lunch break at the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, that as they viewed the Hiwassee River from the banks of present-day Charleston, looking north they would have been looking at U.S. soil.

They were standing on the southern bank of the river, which would have been the Cherokee Nation and the land owned by the Ross brothers, primarily Lewis.

One of the riders asked “How many Cherokee lived here?”

Baker answered, “Not that many — until the removal.” The Indian Agency was established on land owned by Lewis Ross, which was in the Cherokee Nation — not property of the United States. The state of Georgia had become greedy and wanted the rich and resource-filled land of the Cherokee people, forcing broken treaties and even treaties signed by unauthorized individuals of the Cherokee government. This allowed the government to take the land.

Rattlesnake Springs was situated south of present-day Charleston, and the entire area was known as Camp Cass, eventually being named Fort Cass, then Charleston after the removal of the Cherokee in 1838.

The Indians were held at the emigration depot beginning at Rattlesnake Springs. An estimated 13,000 were held in what historians agree was essentially a concentration camp. Many died there as result of drought and contaminated water due to unsanitary conditions throughout the encampment.

There was little shelter from the elements, according to historical accounts.

In August 1838, the first of 13 groups began to leave along what would eventually be named the Trail of Tears — or the Trail Where They Cried. Many would not survive the trip to lands west of the Mississippi River and many others would die in their new location due to their weak state of health and the toll the trip took on their bodies during an extremely harsh winter.

The riders, younger to older, are traveling at a much faster pace than their ancestors.

Their trip is expected to take three weeks.

Their ancestors trekked for five months. Replenishment depots were established by Lewis Ross along the route to resupply the survivors along their journey. It was reported that each group lost five or more members every day. Many were buried along the trail right where they succumbed to the elements or sickness.

Today, the riders have an established route with provisions along the way.

Richard Sneed, of the Eastern Band, said he was a 1984 flame runner for the Joint Council meeting.

“For Katie (his daughter), it will be a great experience. It will help her connect to her roots,” Sneed said.

The pastor and teacher explained that his family roots included a former principal chief. Katie is 15 years old.

McLaren, 18, from Tahlequah, who has a desire to go to the University of Oklahoma and study nursing, is taking the ride to learn and explore her heritage.

“I have several friends who ... rode in the past years. I have learned I am related to a lot of people who held places in Cherokee government,” said McLaren.

As the riders left the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, they thanked Red Clay Park Manager Erin Medley and Ranger Jane Switzer for allowing them to spend Sunday evening at the park, the site of their ancestors’ final council meeting prior to their removal to Camp Cass. The Friends of Red Clay provided food for the hungry campers on Sunday evening. Joe Bryan and Darlene Goins of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center were also thanked for their hospitality Monday, prior to the riders taking to their bikes once again.

Today, they continue their journey from Rhea County after visiting the Blythe Ferry Memorial Removal Park, one of several departure routes that took their ancestors westward.

To follow the riders on their Facebook page, key in “Remember the Removal Bike Ride.”

The riders from the Cherokee Nation include Charli Barnoskie, Cassie Moore, Keeley Godwin, Adriana Collins, Noah Collins, Chance Rudolph, Jordan McLaren, Elizabeth Burns, Zane Scullawl, Madison Taylor, Jamekah Rios, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes and Jacob Chavez.

The riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee are Patricia Watkins, Richard Sneed, Ty Bushyhead, Kelsey Owl, Russell Bigmeat and Katrina Sneed.