A group of 22 members from the Cherokee Nation from Tahlequah, Oklahoma visited Manitou Cave of Alabama for the first time Saturday.

Manitou Cave Director and Steward Annette Reynolds guided the members on a tour of the cave.

George Roach, director of vocational programs and coordinator of the youth internship program, said the tour was their first time at Manitou Cave.

“We are so glad to be here,” Roach said on Saturday.

According to officials, the internship program has existed since the mid-1980s and Roach, said he has been working with the program for the last 29 years.

Roach said the internship could only be applied by summer youth participants who are 18-21 years of age, are a Cherokee tribal member, have a 3.0 GPA or higher and give back to their community in some way.

“Each intern was selected under an interviewing process and may only be selected once in their lifetime,” Roach said.

Roach, along with Larry Shade, an educator at Sequoyah High School and Cherokee Immersion School, are leading a group of summer intern students from Tahlequah, OK on various tours across several states including Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.

During the visit to Manitou Cave, the group engaged in an educational experience including feedback from Reynolds who provided historical background about the cave.

Roach and Shade provided the group with education and historical knowledge regarding Cherokee culture and traditions.

Reynolds said Shade has been arranging these tours for the past eight years and advocated for the group to visit Manitou, in addition to the other Trail of Tears sites.

“He [Shade] is an educator and cultural storyteller,” Reynolds said.

Along with their visit to Manitou Cave, the group will visit the Cherokee Museum, Cherokee Ocunaluftee Indian Village, Judaculla Rock, Clingmans Dome and Mingo Falls.

According to cherokee.org website, the Cherokee Nation settled in Indian Territory of what is known today as present-day Oklahoma after the Indian Removal Act.

In addition, more than 141,000 Cherokee Nation citizens reside within the 14-county tribal jurisdictional area that covers most of northeastern Oklahoma.

According to Reynolds, she received a lot of positive feedback and is looking forward to a continuing relationship with the Cherokee Nation.

“I think it was very important visit and I am honored they came to Manitou,” Reynolds said.

The recent visit from the Cherokee Nation marked the 21st state to visited Manitou Cave in Fort Payne, Alabama, she said.

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