Fueled By Heritage
REMEMBER THE REMOVAL RIDE WILL TAKE VANSANDT THROUGH WASHINGTON COUNTY
Glendon VanSandt of Siloam Springs is one of 10 cyclists chosen to participate in the Cherokee Nation’s 2016 Remember the Removal Bike Ride this June.
Riders will retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears by bicycle from the Cherokee homelands in the southeast to Oklahoma, according to a press release from the Cherokee Nation. The 950-mile ride will begin in New Echota, Ga., and end in Tahlequah, Okla. During the three- week journey, participants will bicycle through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Toward the end of the ride, Glendon and the other riders will be making their way through Washington County on Arkansas Highway 62 as they head towards their final destination in Tahlequah. It will be a special part of the journey because Glendon will get to ride within a mile of the home of his grandparents, Earl and Annette Rowe who live in Lincoln.
“Being selected to participate in the Remember the Removal Bike Ride is an honor for these young tribal citizens. It will be a physical challenge, no doubt, but the reward is immense,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “They will get a unique education in the history of our tribe and learn just how strong our ancestors were as they trekked to modern-day Oklahoma. The bonds they form with the other riders on this annual trip are deep and long lasting, and it’s something the participants will always cherish.”
The ride is a perfect opportunity for Glendon. The 16- year- old homeschool student has a passion for cycling and his Cherokee heritage. He has been racing bikes for the past four seasons and grown up in a cycling family.
He helps with his family’s business, Cross Country Cyclery.
Glendon’s interest in his Cherokee heritage was fueled by attending a Cherokee Nation summer camp. It was there he learned about the Remember the Removal Ride. To be selected for the ride, Glendon wrote an essay, interviewed with a panel and underwent a physical to make sure he was ready for the grueling challenge.
The participants, who range in age from 16 to 24, began training in February. Unlike Glendon, many of the participants don’t have experience with cycling so he has been able to help them learn how to shift gears and clip in and out of their bike pedals.
The Cherokee Nation provided them with a bicycle and all equipment needed for the ride. The group trains two days a week, spending several hours learning Cherokee language, followed by weight training and bike riding to prepare them for cycling an average of 60 miles per day during the ride.
Glendon said he is excited about the opportunity to learn the Cherokee language. He had already been studying the language online. The language is quickly becoming lost, and Glendon said it is important to him to learn Cherokee and pass it on.
One of the most interesting things Glendon learned during the language lessons is there is no Cherokee word for Trail of Tears. Instead, the word used for the journey means “Herded and treated like cattle,” he said.
When asked why he was taking on a 950-mile bike ride and learning a new language, the teenager answered, “So I like challenges. I like to challenge myself whether it’s biking or learning something new.”
Glendon also is looking forward to getting an up-close look at different parts of the country and learning about his heritage. During the ride, he will be able to visit several Cherokee grave sites and historic landmarks, including Blythe’s Ferry in Tennessee, the westernmost edge of the old Cherokee Nation, and Mantle Rock in Kentucky, where Cherokees huddled together for warmth under a hanging rock, the only shelter they could find during a frigid winter.
Genealogists will also map out each rider’s family tree prior to the trip to provide them insight to their ancestral past, according to a news release about the ride.
Glendon said he expects the emotional impact of realizing what his ancestors went through to be the hardest part of his journey. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears, the news release stated.
While the ride will be in summer under much more favorable conditions, it will still give him a feel for the vast distance his ancestors traveled in a way that wouldn’t be possible inside a car, he said.
“Once I get back I think there will be a big difference in how I look at life and seeing how this country has struggled,” Glendon said.
Glendon’s mother, Andrea VanSandt, said she expects the experience to forever change her son. The story of his ride is something that will certainly be passed down through the family to children and grandchildren, she said.
His father, David VanSandt, said Glendon never showed any hesitation about facing the 950-mile bicycle ride. He explained that although his son loves cycling, his desire to do the ride was motivated more by wanting to learn about his heritage.
“For a dad that’s a pretty proud moment,” David VanSandt said. “He’s got the work ethic and the skill to do the bike ride. The trip as a whole is a great adventure for him.”
The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 31, at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla.. The cyclists will drive to North Carolina to connect with the Eastern Band riders and then together start the ride June 5.
For more information on the Remember the Removal Bike Ride and photos, visit www. remember the removal. cherokee.org and www.face book.com/removal.ride.
The ride is a perfect opportunity for Glendon. The 16-year-old homeschool student has a passion for cycling and his Cherokee heritage. He has been racing bikes for the past four seasons and grown up in a cycling family. He helps with his family’s business, Cross Country Cyclery.
Glendon VanSandt, 16, of Siloam Springs, was chosen to participate in the Cherokee Nation’s 2016 Remember the Removal Bike Ride this June. His grandparents, Earl and Annette Rowe, live in Lincoln.