Choctaw Nation Bike Team Completes Trail of Tears Ride

Photos by Jason Hicks/Choctaw Nation

A total of 15 riders and four support crew members ended their journey in front of the Choctaw Nation Headquarters in Durant Friday, May 26. The group completed the 2017 Choctaw Nation Trail of Tears Bike Ride.

May 26, 2017

DURANT – It was a ride of remembrance, as 11 bicyclists pulled out of Tupelo, Mississippi on May 19. Their journey was to retrace much of the Trail of Tears over seven days. Just after noon on Friday, May 26, the Choctaw Nation Trail of Tears Bike Team arrived at the tribal Headquarters in Durant, Oklahoma.

Jana Boykin was among the riders. She said the ride was to remember the tribe’s ancestors.

Teresa Eagle Road, who was riding for the sixth year, said, “Every day was different.”

They got to see history they did not know existed, such as one local guide showed them the spot and told stories of the river crossings made by the first of those who walked the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

The group traveled between 50-70 miles most days, before stopping at 2:30 p.m.

“But, it varied,” said Eagle Road. “There was cool, heat, rain, bad roads, and we even had dogs chase us.”

On the first day, Eagle Road suffered from heat exhaustion and Boykin had a wreck that put her right hand into a cast. “A broken thumb and a fractured finger,” Boykin said. Both continued the ride.

Chief Gary Batton joined the group near the town of Blue for the final leg.

“They rode from Mississippi to Durant,” Chief Batton said, “They are honoring our ancestors, and their story of strength and endurance.” With a nod to the bike team’s perseverance and leadership, he said, “Look at the Choctaw Nation today.”

Chief Batton thanked the group for their effort, and spoke of the inspiration he gets from the event. “I did it last year and plan to do it again next year,” he said.

In all, the Choctaw Nation Trail of Tears Bike Team covered 500 miles in seven days. The team’s journey took them through four states – Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“The ride is an opportunity for participants to learn more about, and experience more closely, our history, namely the removal from our homeland,” said Chief Batton before the riders began. “The ride is strenuous, it’s long, and it gives each rider time to reflect, and to remember.”

The removal of Choctaw people from Mississippi to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) began in 1831. It was spread over three main trips, all which were disastrous for the Choctaw.  One Choctaw chief at the time said to a newspaper reporter, “This has been a trail of tears and death.” The statement originated the term “Trail of Tears,” used to this day to describe the removals of the Five Civilized Tribes of the eastern United States.

During the Choctaw Trail of Tears, an estimated two-thousand of the twenty-thousand Choctaws who made the journey perished. Lives were lost primarily from hunger, cold, disease, and drowning. Despite the hardship and loss, Choctaw people found ways to thrive in the new land, including the establishment of the tribe as a Christian nation.

Jana Boykin, left, and Teresa Eagle Road share their experiences as part of the Choctaw Nation Trail of Tears Bike Team.

Additional photos may be found on the team’s Facebook site at www.facebook.com/choctawnationtrailoftearsbiketeam