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Trail of Tears ride set for Sept. 15

MADISON – The 25th annual Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride on Sept. 15 will retrace a segment of the original Trail of Tears for the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole nations.

The Trail of Tears ride begins in Bridgeport at 8 a.m. and continues across North Alabama to Waterloo. “Many of the riders will be driving through Madison, arriving around 9:30 a.m., coming in on I-565,” spokesperson Larry Vannoy said.

The ride’s first official stop is Polaris Industries, 7049 Greenbrier Parkway NW in Madison. Residents can join the motorcyclists at Polaris to enjoy music, food and a visit of the Polaris showroom. Guests can enter a raffle and receive ‘freebie’ souvenirs. For more information, call Julia Pegis at 256-822-3344.

Both the Alabama legislature and Alabama Indian Affairs Commission have recognized this path as the official Trail of Tears route.

Organizers started the Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride to raise public awareness about the route of 1,070 Cherokee Indians removed under presidential mandate. These Native Americans endured hardships, deplorable conditions, escapes and deaths along this route.

At presidential order, U.S. Gen. Winfield Scott rounded up as many Cherokee in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee as possible in May 1838. U.S. troops placed approximately 17,000 Cherokee in concentration camps near what is now Chattanooga, Tenn. More than 1,200 Native Americans were placed at a camp in Fort Payne.

Between May and June in 1838, more than 5,000 Native Americans were moved down the Tennessee River by flatboat to Oklahoma. However, a drought caused low water levels in the river.

With deteriorating conditions in the camps, like deaths to dysentery and other illnesses, the U.S. government moved 1,070 Indians to Waterloo, closely following the U.S. 72 route through North Alabama.

From here, the official Trail of Tears Corridor, as known today, was established.  

The Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride is held annually on the third Saturday of September. For more information, call 678-RIDE-TOT or visit al-tn-trailoftears.net. To buy Trail of Tears merchandise, visit al-tn-trailoftears.net.

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