the text below is from the memorial plaque that was placed in dequeen, arkansas on the 28th annual ride, to commemorate allen alton ward and his contributions to the trail of tears commemorative ride.
“Lest We Forget”
Allen Alton Ward
Allen Alton Ward was born at his home in Horatio, Arkansas on April 26, 1936. He served in the Army and was a fireman and Texas Ranger. He moved back to his childhood home after retirement, and lived there until he passed on January 7, 2015. But in his heart, Allen was an artist and historian. His grandchildren remember him as a man who would carve animals and faces into every rock and piece of wood, he could get his hands on. He brought the figures to life and used them to tell his family’s story. It was necessary to keep the family history alive in secret because for many generations exposure could have cost the family its American citizenship. And so, Allen learned the art of carving and storytelling from his father, who learned it from his father; and so on, back generations for over a century. This tradition fascinated Allen and led to his life’s greatest pursuit: commemorating the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears. In the years when Allen was gaining skill in his traditional art making, the sting of the past was beginning to fade. His art connected him to long lost Cherokee relatives, and gave him a chance to share the history that had been kept hidden for far too long. By the early 2000s, Allen had received local notoriety for his art, and had made his family’s connection to the Trail of Tears public. He sold a limited number of his portrait “Lest We Forget”, water colored by Van Ledbetter of De Queen, was dedicated on Sept. 16,2000 at De Queen, AR honoring Five Civilized Tribes and all other Tribes removed from their homelands in the 1830s. Funds from this sale were used to place markers for the Trail of Tears Corridor West, in coordination with ATTOTCAI. Allen lived for the Trail of Tears ride: he will be remembered for his advocacy and art to connect more people to it and to honor his family’s legacy.
the allen ward ride west leaves on the sunday after the official annual trail of tears ride from spring park. The destination varies from year to year depending on how the great Spirit's wind blows. (which means it depends on what the ride organizers want to do that year.) The destination might be the cherokee heritage center in tahlequah, oklahoma, or it might be dequeen, Arkansas to visit the site of the alan ward memorial. it may also be any one of a number of other historical sites in arkansas or oklahoma important to the story of the trail of tears.
be sure to check this year's ride page for details.
beginning from spring park the ride can leave alabama and head up into tennessee or skirt through the northeastern corner of mississippi depending on which route is chosen by the organizers. the first stop, other than stops to gas up, is memphis. some years this portion of the ride can be escorted by state or local police. and the route taken is often a mixture of interstate highway, state highways and rural roads. the countryside is beautiful and the ride is leisurely. by the time riders arrive in memphis human fuel tanks need to be filled and a quaint or historic spot is chosen for 'gassing up'. the food is always good and the company is outstanding! by this point real friendships have developed in the shared experience of this 'one of a kind' motorcycle event. motorcyclists are always fast to make friendships because of our love for this unique sport and the shared spirit of paying tribute to this very important event in our history makes that kinship stronger.
Sunday's ride sometimes ends in russelville, arkansas and sometimes goes on all the way to fort smith, and sometimes it may be Hot springs. these cities are on the southern edge of the beautiful ozark national forest. by this point, if you started the ride on thursday of the previous week, you have ridden about 800 miles across some of the most beautiful country in middle america. You have seen how diverse and scenic the trip across and through 6 states can be through the heart of our country... and you may still have one more state to go... oklahoma!
monday morning we begin the last leg of the ride. as you travel out of arkansas you cross the arkansas river into oklahoma. the change in the landscape is almost immediate and dramatic! mountain forests give way to the beautiful scenery of eastern oklahoma with its more rugged landscape of bluffs and canyons. And somehow the sky just gets bigger. the destination in oklahoma is the western cherokee heritage center in tahlequah.
the cherokee heritage center in tahlequah is situated in a beautiful and peaceful setting of shade trees. those that manage the center are happy to greet the riders and provide a tour of the museum and grounds in a gracious manner as they sincerely appreciate the tribute that has been paid to their history, their people, and the suffering they endured on the trail of tears.
The attotcai has placed a plaque on the grounds of the heritage center and the last thing to do on this long adventure of remembrance is to visit that plaque and share something of what the riders have experienced.
whatever the final destination, from this point everyone is free to explore. it may be the ozarks, the heritage center, or any part of this beautiful section of the country on their own. you may want to visit other historic sites in tahlequah, or to pay a visit to the harrah's casino operated by the cherokee on their tribal lands. this long and memorable ride is unique in the entire sport of american motorcycling. it is a beautiful scenic experience of the southeast and central part of america. it is a deep spiritual journey to recall the experience of the cherokee and other native american nations that endured this hard and cruel experience. and it is an opportunity to join together with our fellow bikers and celebrate the american story, both good and bad. it is a truly american experience unlike any other. we hope that you will join us for the entire ride and we are certain you will want to do it again.
the map above shows the route we take if the ride after the celebration at waterloo goes to tahlequah, oklahoma and the western cherokee heritage center. the alan ward memorial ride is another unofficial ride that the organizers and trail of tears enthusiasts make every year. this portion of the ride leaves out of waterloo on sunday morning from spring park. The attotcai has erected a monument there and a small ceremony is conducted to begin the ride with meaningful reflection and tribute to what was for some the last leg of the trail of tears. many cherokee and other native american nations were forced to march from waterloo to the designated 'indian lands' in oklahoma. so we begin to remember them from spring park.
the map above shows the route we take if the ride after the celebration at waterloo goes to dequeen, arkansas and the alan ward memorial site. the alan ward memorial ride is another unofficial ride that the organizers and trail of tears enthusiasts make every year. this portion of the ride leaves out of waterloo on sunday morning from spring park. The attotcai has erected a monument there and a small ceremony is conducted to begin the ride with meaningful reflection and tribute to what was for some the last leg of the trail of tears. many cherokee and other native american nations were forced to march from waterloo to the designated 'indian lands' in oklahoma. so we begin to remember them from spring park.
if you are interested to join us on these unofficial rides, before and after the main event on every third saturday in september, please use the form below to let us know so we can put you on a mailing list that will provide the details of these parts of the ride and keep you up to date on any changes as they may develop. and be sure to visit the 'this year's ride' page as it provides specific information about the ride plan and any special information related to the coming ride for this year.