Riders remember the hardships of the Trail of Tears

    11:27 PM, Sep 23, 2010   |    comments
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  • Trail of Tears Ride
  • A low rumble accompanied them down Helena's famous Cherry Street as 130 bikes and almost 200 riders make their way to Indian Territory in the annual Trail of Tears ride.

    They started in Chattanooga, Tennessee, And after more than 800 miles, concluded the ride in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

    "It started out, I just wanted to get enough money to put a sign up on the highway. Now we've put several hundred signs up on the highway," says Bill Cason who started the ride to remember 17 years ago.

    The money raised now go to scholarships for Native American students in the states the ride travels through.

    Cason says, "We've donated over $230,000 in Native American scholarships. We have a kid graduate just about every year now."

    The riders have come to Helena for lunch, and are treated to barbeque fresh out of the smoker. A few miles in the saddle can work up an appetite, But the fresh hot food is a luxury they realize those on the trail of tears did not enjoy.

    Lance Cyr says, "I mean you sit on a motorcycle, and it will take us three days to get out there. Some of them took almost three months. So you can imagine day in and day out just finding food. I mean no place to find food. No place to eat. No place to get water. It must have been horrendous."

    One motorcycle flies the Cherokee nation flag with the distinctive seven point stars. Kehoga Blanchard is part Cherokee, and she and her passenger have participated in the full ride six times.

    Blanchard says, "I'm riding a $20,000 machine. I know there's an end to my trail. I know I can have the water when I want it. And our people didn't. I mean if that doesn't move you, nothing will."

    Rested and refreshed it's time to hit the road again, another day and a half of riding before they reach the end of the trail.

    It gives one time to think about the mistakes of the past and ways to avoid them in the future.

    Jim Dunn says, "We need to be a little more acceptable of each other in our country. We do have a lot of people here from various ethnic backgrounds, And I think that if we were a little less quick to think that they're different than we are, it might be a little better if we didn't think that quickly."

    The riders honoring the hardships experienced on Trail of Tears just might leave you Amazed by Arkansas.

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