Bikers remember the Trail of Tears

Tuesday, September 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's a painful part of our nation's history, the forced march of thousands of native Americans from their ancestral homes in the southeast to Oklahoma.

It's been nearly 165 years since the Trail of Tears. A group of southern bikers is trying to make sure it's never forgotten. News on 6 reporter Heather Johnson has the story.

They finished the trail triumphantly, rolling into Tahlequah mindful of those who so many years ago arrived in agony. Jerry Davis, Ride co-founder: "We've had many of the white man trails the Appalachian, the Santa Fe marked and this is what set the policy to remove the Indians out of their homeland."

This year's trek began with more than 100,000 riders in Chattanooga, Tennesse, and then a few hundred of the most experienced continued on to Tahlequah. When it began 10 years ago only 8 riders took the trail, now hundreds more have joined in all hoping to set a visual example of a dark time in American History too often forgotten.

David Scott, Cherokee Nation Historical Society: "A lot of it in history depends on who writes the history and a lot of the history is not in the viewpoint of the Cherokees and I think that needs to be changed, especially in Oklahoma." The group has succeeded in placing markers along the historical trail in several states, now dedicating one in the capital of the Cherokee Nation.

Many of the riders had a personal connection. Bill Sanders, "My ancestors and my wife's ancestors was forced out here on the trail and now I live in Oklahoma, but I go back every year and ride out of respect for my ancestors." Polly Hughes, "I didn't even learn about the trail of tears in school and if they don't teach it, it's up to other ways for it to get out and this is one good way it gets out there."

For co-founder Jerry Davis, the recognition is a dream realized. "For a long time it was swept under the rug it's been 165 years since the Cherokee came west of the Mississippi and I feel like today I'm visiting family."

Davis said he started the commemorative ride after being disappointed by how few people even knew about the Trail of Tears. He and others worked to have legislation passed in Alabama to officially designate the Trail of Tears corridor.