Thousands of motorcycle riders will arrive in Waterloo, Alabama on Saturday, September 21st hoping to raise awareness of “The Trail of Tears”.

Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears follows the route traveled in the 1830s by approximately 100,000 indigenous people from the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and other Native American nations.   The re-location of these people came about as a result of the signing of the Treaty of New Echota.

Treaty of Echota

The treaty was signed by Cherokees including Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot who claimed to represent the entire Cherokee Nation.  Ridge did not have the authority to do so.  Once enacted, the Treaty would give Cherokee land west of the Mississippi to the US in exchange for $5,000,000.  There was dissension in the US Congress, but the act was ratified by one vote in 1836.  Now in place, the Cherokees had two years to evacuate the land.

Major Ridge-John Ridge-Elias Boudinot (Buck Watie). Image credit: Wikipedia

Major Ridge-John Ridge-Elias Boudinot (Buck Watie). Image credit: Northeastern State University

Forced removal

Since most of the Cherokee nation had not agreed to the treaty, they refused to move off their lands.  Then in 1838 and 1839, US federal soldiers and state militias rounded up 16,000 Cherokees, imprisoned them and forced them to take boats and walk to Native American territory in current-day Oklahoma.  During the forced removal, 4,000 Cherokees died.  Many of them are buried in unmarked graves.

It is this tragedy that the riders are trying to raise awareness of.  The official start of the ride will depart September 21st from Bridgeport, AL with a police escort.  Along the way, thousands of riders will join the group traveling to Waterloo.  Many will continue to Oklahoma with the leaders of the ride.

Police escort trail of tears

Police will escort the rider’s departure. Photo credit: AMLTA

12,000 riders

According to this year’s organizer, Ike Moore, last year 7-8 thousand riders left Bridgeport.  By the time they had reached Waterloo, the count had soared to 12,000.  Moore beleives that remembering the Trail of Tears is an important part of American history.

My hope, and the reason I do all of this, is that some little kid is going to be standing on the side of the road with his daddy and the motorcycles come rolling by, and the kid will say, well daddy, why are all these motorcycles going down the road?’ And that we’ve done a good enough job educating that daddy will know and tell that kid why.”

For more information about the Trail of Tears motorcycle ride, you can go to its website.  For more information about Cherokee history, you can check out the Cherokee Historical Association website.



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