Rogers County residents participate in Remember the Removal Ride
Pat Reeder Special to the Progress
The plague of bicycle wrecks, flat tires, heat, rain and oh, yes, dogs, was not lost on Rogers County riders in the 2013 Remember the Removal Ride.
However, when they talked to Rogers County Cherokee Association members and guests recently, Lillie and Ben Keener and Noah Collins were solemn when they shared thoughts about how much more difficult it must have been 175 years ago when their Cherokee ancestors were rounded up and held in stockades. Tribes were later herded over land and on boats to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. An estimated 4,000 died during the Removal.
Oklahoma bicyclists, including Keener’s brother, Joe, were joined by bicyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokees from North Carolina, forming forever bonds between the two nations, with a common hold by birth.
The riders left New Echota, Ga., the last capital of the Cherokees, and made their way along roads and trails on a three-week journey that took them through seven states and more than 950 miles.
They averaged 60 miles a day on most days. The trip was dotted with stops at historic sites and activities during their night stops when they explored experience parallels to their Cherokee ancestors at the time of the removal.
Often their spirits were buoyed by police escorts through towns and people cheering them on their journey.
Lillie and Joe Keener were also on the 2013 ride. They are the children of Cherokee Nation Councilman Lee Keener and his wife, Beth. Ben is a student at Rogers State University in Claremore, Joe attends Northeastern State University and Lillie is studying at Abilene Christian University.
Noah is the son of Todd and Susy Collins from Verdigris.
Eric Budder Sr., whose son, Eric Jr., was on the 2012 ride, laughed when this year’s riders told of spending nights in a motel.
Eric Sr. was on the first Remember the Removal Ride in 1984. “We rode 120 miles most days and spent the night in tents,” he said.
Riders must apply for a spot in the ride and dedicate themselves to training, both individually and as a group, and to completing the journey together.