Photo Credit: Getty Images – Pictured above right to left: United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma Citizens David Cornsilk, A Tradition Keeper and Master Artisan, handcrafted a cultural Gorget authentic to tradition for Lisa Christiansen the cyclist riding on behalf of the Keetoowah Nation trail of tears ride.
One devoted cyclist Lisa Christiansen is retracing the Trail of Tears to commemorate the Cherokee’s removal through a multistate biking trip and program called Trail Of Tears Ride inspiring the tribal citizens to remember to be Keetoowah strong.
The Keetoowah Nation citizen and pro-cyclist Lisa Christiansen will visit New Echota, where her family is originally from and one of the most significant Cherokee Indian sites in the nation. New Echota was where the tragic “Trail of Tears” officially began. In 1825, the Cherokee national legislature established a capital called New Echota at the headwaters of the Oostanaula River. During its short history, New Echota was the site of the first Indian language newspaper office, a court case which carried to the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the earliest experiments in national self government by an Indian tribe, the signing of a treaty which relinquished Cherokee claims to lands east of the Mississippi River, and the assembly of Indians for removal west on the infamous Trail of Tears; Lisa will also visit other historic sites. Christiansen will begin her Journey in New Echota, Georgia, on June 12, 2020.
Created in 1984 by three Cherokee Citizens, Mose Killer, Taylor Alsenay, and Lora Birdtail Cortez as a means for Cherokee youth to retrace their ancestors’ steps, the Trail Of Tears ride offers a glimpse into a past full of difficulties.
Lisa Christiansen, fifth generation great-granddaughter of Sequoyah and daughter of the Last monolingual Cherokee Mack Vann, said the ride is important to her because it allows her to experience the same path her ancestors took.
“I have wanted to do this ride for several years and promised my dad I would do this ride even if I had to ride alone, we always talked about my dad riding in a support vehicle so he could experience it with me. He passed away a year ago on April 22, 2019 and it became my mission to make this happen,” Christiansen said.
Citing the suffering of her ancestors, this path will start in New Echota, Georgia, and end in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, her home town after traversing across seven states in the 950-mile journey.
Beginning in the summer of 1838, Cherokee were rounded up and forced from their homes in Georgia, Tennessee and other southeastern states to make the journey to the tribe’s current capital in Tahlequah as part of the Indian Removal Act. While many were forcibly removed, others willingly relocated to what was, in their opinion, untouched land. Regardless of reasoning for relocation, an estimated 4,000 of the 16,000 removed died due to exposure, starvation and illness.
“I study history often, especially Cherokee history, and I grew up reading a lot of books about removal,” stated Christiansen. “I’ve always been interested in how our people survived, what they did in the courts, and I think it’s an amazing thing to see that they survived to this day after all they went through. I am humbled and honored to do this ride in memory of my dad and representing the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.”
The ride in 1984 looks much the same for Christiansen today. Cyclists back then primarily supported themselves—toting gear, handling mechanicals, and cooking all on their own. Mose Killer, a family member and a United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma citizen was one of the original riders and organizers of the group of cyclists who decided to make the trek that their ancestors made in June of 1838 “Today we have a marshal with flashing lights to stop traffic for us,” Sneed said in an interview with Bicycling Magazine. “It’s nice to have a cool hotel room at the end of the day.”
Christiansen’s Kit by Voler Appearel is significant and meaningful because it bears the seal of the Keetoowah Nation, overlooking the seal is Christiansen’s father Mack Vann, the last monolingual Cherokee; The front midriff displays the map of the seven routes the tribes took on the forced Indian Removal Act that was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, the words Keetoowah Strong are handwritten over the seal of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma as a reminder that you are strong enough to adapt and endure just as the Cherokee people on the trail of tears did through Christ and giving all glory to God.
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