This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. — This weekend, thousands of motorcyclists took to the roads in North Alabama for the Train of Tears Ride, braving the rain, to commemorate a dark day in Native American history.

Beginning in 1830 over 17,000 thousand Native Americans from the Cherokee tribe were forcibly removed from their homeland by the US government. They were forced to relocate west of the Mississippi river.

“When we started, we hoped to get 4,000 riders for the 4,000 Cherokee that died along the trail of tears and the fifth year of the trail of tears we had 15,000,” said rider Rudy Rainwater. “The history of this part of the trail of tears was being erased.”

Saturday’s ride is part of an effort to make sure that piece of history is not forgotten. Kicking off in Bridgeport, Alabama the ride follows the route Native Americans took westward after being expelled from their homeland by the Indian removal act. The ride passes through Madison County on the way to Waterloo.

Many riders have Native American blood, and others join to support their friends and also honor those who lost their lives. The time on the road is an opportunity for reflection.

“Somewhere if you’ve lost a friend through the years, you’re riding along for some reason or another, there will be a flash and you’ll see that person for one second,” said Rainwater.

Organizers say donations received during the ride will be used to help coordinate future rides and to make sure that the history of the Trail of Tears is preserved.