More than just a ride?

A Cherokee participant recognizes the importance of the Remember the Removal ride.

The Cherokee Remember the Removal bike riders arrived in Waynesville Thursday afternoon.

Sarah Holcomb from Vian, Oklahoma is active with the ride. She is the trainer and one of the main coordinators of the group. Holcomb said, “My very first time doing the ride was back in 2009. After that, I started coming back and helping them train.”

The tradition of riding was passed down in her family. Holcomb said, “My mom did it back in 1984. Not many people signed up for it—there were just eight people—and they asked me to do it. I was the only girl. I decided to do it and it’s changed my life. For the past nine years, I’ve been helping with this.”

Holcomb can see how she’s changed since riding. She said, “I was a different person when I first did this. I was young—I was 19. It helped me mature a lot. It taught me a lot of leadership skills and patience. Most importantly, it taught me about my history. I mean, how do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been? I think it’s one of the most important things. Our youth really need to know their past—what their ancestors went through and I think that’s really important.”

She referenced to a map of all the routes on one of the trailers. “The red one is the one we follow which is the northern route,” Holcomb said. “There’s four different routes, I believe.”

The riders represent all different age groups. “My group from Oklahoma is ages 16 to 24 and we have one mentor rider,” Holcomb said. “She’s over 30. The eastern band’s youngest is 17 and the oldest, I think, is 60 something.”

Holcomb ended with a short history lesson. “We’re all Cherokee. We have the North Carolina Cherokees which means that whenever we were removed, a lot stayed up there. Then the ones that came over their removal are the ones in Oklahoma. So there’s two different groups,” Holcomb said.