Waynesville helped honor the Cherokee Nation Friday and hosted the Remember the Removal Riders on their annual ride at the Trail of Tears site along the Roubidoux in Laughlin Park.
For the last five years, Remember the Removal Riders take to their bicycles and ride the route their ancestors took along the northern route of the Trail of Tears to remember the Cherokee's removal from their homes in the east. The site in Laughlin Park has been certified as a stopping place along the Trail of Tears and the riders stopped there again this year.
The trek across the country is more than 900 miles taken over a three week period. The riders represent the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, stopping at places significant to the Trail of Tears.
Waynesville's Trail of Tears site is an ongoing project by the city that will eventually be filled with exhibits along an interpretive walking trail next to the Roubidoux. The construction on the site has been moving along and has changed since the riders stopped last year.
Waynesville mayor Luge Hardman told the riders, Friday, when they come through next year, "there will be exhibits here all about the Trail of Tears."
The riders arrived around 4:30 p.m. after riding around 55 miles from Steelville, Mo. They were greeted by locals, Hardman, city council members Ed Conley, Jim Mathews, Diana Stanford, and Representative Steve Lynch.
The Roubidoux was a welcome site for several of the riders, including one that had gotten overheated on Missouri's hilly terrain. They took a moment to dunk themselves in the Roubidoux, known for its cold, spring-fed temperatures.
Alice Wood, a local Native American, provided cold, bottled water for the riders before Hardman began a welcoming ceremony at the site of Waynesville's Trail of Tears exhibit. The city gave each rider an American flag for their bicycles and a pin to commemorate their stop in Waynesville.
The riders spent the night in St. Robert at a local hotel before moving on towards Springfield, a planned stop for a rest day, Monday. On the way, they got caught in the local storms and were forced to stop in Conway to take shelter. The riders are chronicling their trip via a Facebook page that can be found at https://www.facebook.com/removal.ride, for those that would like to follow their progress.
For more information on Waynesville's role as a stop on the Trail of Tears visit http://www.waynesvillemo.org/encampment.htm and for more information on the Remember the Removal Ride visit http://remembertheremoval.cherokee.org/.