Choctaw Nation Bike Team Completes Trail of Tears Ride
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 were 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 planned 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. The displacement spread over three main trips. All 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.
Ten Commandments Sculpture Unveiled at Trail of Tears Walk
TUSKAHOMA – Those attending the 2017 Choctaw Nation Trail of Tears Walk and Heritage Day on May 20 witnessed an additional special event – the unveiling of sculpture, The Ten Commandments.
An estimated 2,000 people were on hand for the annual Walk held on the Historic Choctaw Capitol Grounds at Tvshka Homma. Walkers and supporters gathered in front of the Choctaw Nation Council House, site of the newest art on the grounds. As opening ceremonies got under way, Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., and members of the Choctaw Tribal Council circled the covered artwork. The cloth was removed to reveal a carving of The Holy Bible opened to the Ten Commandments.
It stands 5’4” high and weighs about 3,000 pounds. Natural gray in color, it’s made of natural Georgia granite mined from a 3-mile long, 1-mile deep vein of granite.
Boyd Miller, Preferred Supplier Program Manager for the Choctaw Nation, designed the work based on submissions throughout the Choctaw Nation. Don Parsons’ Jordan River Monuments, in Poteau, was the builder, with actual construction done in Georgia.
The sculpture displays two versions of the Ten Commandments. The left side page is in King James English, the right, facing page, in Choctaw. Lilly Roberts and Teresa Billy, noted Choctaw language speakers, helped with details of the Choctaw wording of the Ten Commandments.
After celebrating the unveiling, walkers lined up on the road in front of the Choctaw Tribal Council House. Previous day’s rain and lingering puddles did not deter walkers who trekked the full 2.5-mile route commemorating the Trail of Tears of the 1830s.
Heritage Day activities concluded with cultural demonstrations of basket weaving, pottery making, stickball, and traditional Choctaw dancing. A large tent covered 14 Choctaw artists’ booths. Paintings, pottery, medicine bags, beadwork, flutes, knives, bows and arrows, and handmade stuffed animals were among items displayed and for sale.