TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma - The Cherokee Nation sent off 12 young men and women Tuesday morning on a 950-mile journey in honor and remembrance of the Trail of Tears. 

The Remember the Removal Bike Ride, an annual event, is an 18-day bicycle trek that will cross seven states. Starting in Georgia on June 4th, riders will cross through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas, making their return to Oklahoma on June 22nd.   

Tuesday morning’s send-off included a blessing from Cherokee Nation leaders such as Principal Chief Bill John Baker. This year’s 12 riders range in age from 16-24. They will join eight cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina before starting their journey in New Echota, Georgia. 

The 2017 participants are Brian Barlow, Hunter Scott, Ellic Miller and Macie Sullateskee, of Cherokee County; Trey Pritchett, KenLea Henson and Susie Q. Means-Worley, of Adair County; Skylar Vann and Gaya Pickup, both of Mayes County; Breanna Anderson, of Tulsa County; Shelby Deal, of Muskogee County; and Raven Girty, of Sequoyah County.

Will Chavez, a participant of the original 1984 Remember the Removal Bike Ride was chosen to accompany the group as the inaugural mentor rider.