Fu­eled By Her­itage

RE­MEM­BER THE RE­MOVAL RIDE WILL TAKE VANSANDT THROUGH WASH­ING­TON COUNTY

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - NEWS - Janelle Jessen

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.

JANELLE JESSEN EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

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.

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