I hate to say this, but because of the bike ride, I really don’t like Missouri any longer. It was the most painful stretch of road that we, and I’m sure you, Jack, have been through. He went through the state, but I want to share with you some of the things we are doing with the Remember the Removal bike ride.

We actually started this at the Cherokee Nation 26 years ago. This year, there were 25 bike riders, many of whom are employees and work inside the Cherokee Nation today. It left a lasting impression on those who attended the bike ride 26 years ago. For the 25th anniversary of that bike ride, we retraced it last year and again this year. It’s a very powerful tool, and I’ll share with you some of the reasons why we do it.

The Cherokees have a rich, strong history. Each of the bike riders and several of our citizens wear wristbands similar to the LIVESTRONG wristbands, recognizing those who have survived cancer. Our wristbands say “Survive, Adapt, Prosper, and Excel,” and that is our legacy and history, especially through the history of the Trail of Tears. We faced such adversity, but we didn’t just face it; we survived, adapted, prospered, and excelled to become the nation we are today. Our vision for the Cherokee Nation is to become a happy and healthy people. As Chief Smith indicated earlier, we learn through history, and we learn that we do not want to repeat some of those things.

As we educate ourselves, we make wise decisions to ensure that we seize opportunities. We teach the bike riders several things, which also educates the public and brings more attention to the Trail of Tears and its story. Additionally, we do genealogical research with the help of Mr. Baker for each rider, so they can see their ancestry. It makes the Trail of Tears that much more powerful when they visit a particular site and realize they are descendants of someone significant. We also teach them a lot about individual strength and group strength.

When we decided to do this, we planned everything out. After Jack and I drove the route, we had every piece of technology we needed. But when it came to putting our feet on the pedals that first day and thinking about riding 1,000 miles over the next 20 days, it was hard to fathom. There were challenges every day—heat, dogs, rain, pain in places I can’t describe, and emotions that surfaced as we went along. Each rider experienced a variety of things during the ride.

We try to trace the northern route of the Trail of Tears as closely as possible. We ride road bikes with thin tires, so there are a few places where we actually get on dirt roads and have to carry and push the bikes. We try to stay as close to the northern route as we can because it helps share the story. There are times on the ride when we are just riding, and not a word is spoken between riders—it’s a time to reflect on the experience.

This past year, we took 15 riders and four support staff. We traveled through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas, making stops along the way. I went to the National Board meeting this year and asked for their help. In 2009, during our first trip, we met folks like Herman Peterson, Joe Crab, Kevin YZ, Jet Stancil, David Gomez, and others who took us in, fed us dinner, and hosted us with their families. It made the experience much better for both the bike riders and the host families. I asked if they could get involved and help tell the local story because everyone can tell those stories from their chapters and areas much better than I ever could.

The riders have to train about 45 days in advance. We give them their bicycles and gear, and they have to ride consecutively for five days every week. They can’t ride one day, take a day off, and ride again. They have to ride every day for five days in a row—that’s what I call the break-in period. We did corporate rides to prepare for that. You can see some of the things that happen and hear some funny stories from other riders.

Sara Fulton, who served as a mentor this year, completed the ride last year. We asked four of our riders from last year to serve as leaders and mentors for our students this year. At one point, Sara was riding with Baron, who said he had been breaking through the wind all day and needed someone else to take over. Sara tried to get in front of him, but the wind was so strong she couldn’t. He thought something was wrong, like she had a bee in her helmet, because she was shaking violently. She was frustrated because it was so hot and windy that day. Each rider experiences frustrations and grief similar to what our ancestors faced, giving them a small glimpse into that experience.

We are planning to do this again, possibly in early June. Back in Tahlequah, we typically have rest days planned. I’m also investigating the possibility of shorter rides. Twenty-three days is a long time to commit, so we’re looking for opportunities for shorter, two or three-day rides. The Eastern Band has expressed interest in possibly joining, making it a learning experience as well.

I want to thank those who helped us last year, like Ms. Baker, who shared stories with Chief Smith as we went through Kentucky with Ellis. Sharing these stories bonds us together. I often see someone we met along the bike ride who immediately comes up to hug one of the bike riders or vice versa—that’s the kind of bond it creates.

With that, I’m going to ask our four riders here today to join us. You’ll notice some of them look a little different from their pictures—one of them even chopped off their hair.

The tires make me really nervous, but the support and encouragement from the Cherokee Nation and other bike riders helped us a lot. We took turns breaking wind for each other, making the ride easier. It’s such a great experience, and I’m grateful to the Cherokee Nation for the opportunity to see all these sites, get closer to fellow bike riders, and learn more about my own personal history. It was very important to me and a wonderful experience.

[Applause]

Hello, Hudson here. I want to express that the bike ride is not only physically challenging but mentally challenging as well. There are times of restriction and feelings I had never felt before. The part that captivated me most was being at Mantle Rock. It made me realize my purpose on this bike ride—being in the same footsteps and spots as my ancestors was almost an out-of-body experience. It was a part of the ride I will never forget. The ride also helped me compete because of the leadership role I took on, which I will never forget. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I thank everyone for their support and encouragement. I played softball my first year of college, but to be honest, I didn’t own a bike. I didn’t let that stop me, and many people let challenges stop them. It never crossed my mind that I couldn’t do it, so I encourage anyone to go after what they want to do.

[Applause]

Riding the course was like being out there, stopping often. It was amazing.

This is actually my second time doing the ride. In 2009, my first project was to help organize the ride. I didn’t expect to participate, but I’m really glad I did. I learned a lot about my family history and made new friends. In 2010, Todd asked about helping again. It was tough the first time, and even tougher mentally the second time. I actually had to leave halfway through the trip, but I want to thank everyone who helped us along the trail.

As Barry indicated, I left during the bike ride this year. When we first started, I thought it would be the same as last year, but I was wrong. We picked mentors from last year’s riders, and one of them was Baron. We’ve given presentations about the ride, and one thing I communicated to him was that he was a leader in training last year because I didn’t realize I would have to leave four days into the bike ride this year.

We got to Woodbury, Tennessee, and I got a phone call from my wife saying I needed to come back home because my dad was really sick. He had a liver transplant in 2007 and had several close calls, but always bounced back. When I got the call, I thought it would be another one of those times. I tried not to let the riders know, but that night I told them I had to leave. It was difficult because I was leaving my bike ride family during their trials and tribulations. I told Baron he would be in charge, and not to dismiss any rider because each one has strengths and capabilities that make them leaders.

I spent the last hours with my dad and helped my family through the loss. It was hard for me, but I kept sending messages to the bike riders and helping plan things. Losing someone is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but something in me said I had to go back and finish. I met up with the riders in Springfield and completed the last four days. I was miserable from eating things I wasn’t supposed to, but I was able to share with them why I felt strongly about coming back. Our ancestors faced death every day and kept going. That’s the story of the bike ride: facing adversity, surviving, adapting, prospering, and excelling.

The bike ride teaches leadership and the ability to persevere. It’s not about physical strength; it’s about emotional and spiritual strength to overcome anything. I want to thank these riders for their courage to step out, test themselves, and let everyone know what they’re about.

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Todd Enlow – The Cherokee Youth Bike Riders

I hate to say this, but because of the bike ride, I really don’t like Missouri any longer. It was the most painful stretch of road that we, and I’m sure you, Jack, have been through. He went through the state, but I want to share with you some of

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