EBCI citizen running Trail of Tears route
McCoy said he started running May 14 in Cherokee at Kituwah Mound, and is expecting to arrive in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on June 28 after completing a 1,095-mile journey.
“I was initially interested in the removal (Remember the Removal) ride and I found during the application process that if you have a felony conviction on your record that you was automatically excluded. I am person in long-term recovery from substance abuse,” he said. “So I wanted to do the Trail of Tears in remembrance of our ancestors, and I decided that instead of doing the removal ride, I would run it.”
The Benge detachment began on Oct. 3, 1838, in Fort Payne, Alabama, and crossed into Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas before finishing on Jan. 11, 1839, in Indian Territory, near present-day Stilwell, Oklahoma.
He said he’s averaging about 20 miles per day and has the support of his mother, girlfriend and cousin, who drive a few miles ahead of him and await him with water and food.
“So I run three or four miles to catch up, drink something, eat something, and do the same thing over again all day long. That’s how we do it,” he said.
McCoy said after being released from jail in August, he decided to make a lifestyle change to overcome drug addiction. He began competing in endurance and running competitions, leading him to decide to run one of the forced removal routes.
“I’ve just really been pushing myself since I’ve been out of jail to be a better person, be the change that I want to see,” he said.
After starting his organization RezHOPE Recovery, McCoy said he wants to use this run to raise money to open a recovery house for people who are suffering from addiction, coming out of jail, in rehab and looking for a safe environment.
“I feel like as a people we have, since all that happened to our ancestors, we have been in a state of oppression with alcohol, with different substances, with diabetes, all kinds of different things that we struggle with as a people. I know it’s making an impact on the people back home that’s watching this journey,” he said.
In addition to his nonprofit, McCoy said he wants to open recovery houses across the United States on Native American reservations and create a speaking tour where he can talk to people about his challenges with addiction and how he’s been able to overcome them.
To track McCoy’s journey, follow his Facebook page Kallup McCoy II or his organization’s page Rez Hope.