Riding the Dark Trail ; End of the Line: 950-Mile Trek Completed Bicyclists Honor Victims of the 1838 Trail of Tears Forced March

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TAHLEQUAH - Friends and family members welcomed home the 2013 Remember the Removal bike riders Friday morning at the Cherokee Nation Courthouse Square.

First launched in 1984, the ride commemorates the Cherokees' forced move to Oklahoma in 1838.

After leaving the Cherokee Nation's W.W. Keeler Complex on May 30, 15 Cherokee high school and college students drove to North Carolina to meet with seven riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians before starting on the 950-mile bicycle ride back to Oklahoma.

Starting in the Cherokees' preremoval capital, New Echota, Ga., the riders retraced the Trail of Tears' northern route through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.

The group rode an average of 60 miles each day.

"The ride has been an amazing experience," Cherokee Nation citizen Jon Ross said. "It has shaped my perspective of what our ancestors encountered along the trail.

"It's been a hard trek, but the struggles offer a small taste of what our ancestors experienced many years ago. …