TAHLEQUAH — Twelve cyclists participating in the 2017 Remember the Removal Bike Ride left the Cherokee Nation Tuesday to begin a three-week, 950-mile trek retracing the northern route of the Trail of Tears.

The Cherokee Nation cyclists will join eight cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina, and will begin their ride in New Echota, Georgia, on June 4. The ride spans seven states before concluding in Tahlequah on June 22.

“Each and every year, the Remember the Removal effort enables some of Cherokee Nation’s strongest emerging leaders to participate in a unique event that is focused on individual growth, teamwork development and, most importantly, sharing Cherokee history and heritage,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The journey from Georgia to Oklahoma is mentally and physically challenging, and these young people will return home in a few weeks with a new and profound appreciation of the multitude of sacrifices our ancestors made along the Trail of Tears.”

The original Remember the Removal Bike Ride was in 1984, with the leadership program resuming in 2009. Participants learn about Cherokee Nation history, language and culture and get a glimpse of the hardships their ancestors faced while making the journey on foot.

In 1838, Cherokees were rounded up and forced from their homes in Georgia, Tennessee and other southeastern states to the Cherokee Nation’s current capital in Tahlequah. Of approximately 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the trek to Indian Territory, it is estimated that 4,000 died from exposure, disease and starvation.

Follow the Remember the Removal Bike Ride journey at www.facebook.com/removal.ride or by searching for the hashtags #RememberTheRemoval and #RTR2017 on Twitter.