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Choctaw Chief to visit sculpture that commemorates his nation's generosity during Irish famine

Despite living in conditions of starvation and poverty themselves, the Choctaw people sent money to Ireland in 1847.

IN 1847, THE Native American Choctaw people collected money for the Irish famine, despite living in conditions of starvation and poverty themselves.

They had been forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands, known at the Trail of Tears, and were exposed to disease and starvation en route to Oklahoma.

However, the Choctaw people contributed $170 (€150) – which is about $4,400 (€3,950) today – to send food aid when they heard about Ireland’s struggle.

Today the chief of the Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, and a delegation of over 15 representatives from the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, will attend a public ceremony in Cork to officially dedicate a sculpture in Midleton which commemorates the donation.

The sculpture ‘Kindred Spirits’ by Cork based sculptor Alex Pentek was commissioned in 2013 to commemorate the donation. It has nine 20 foot eagle feathers arranged in a circle shape reaching towards the sky, representing a bowl filled with food.

Chocktaw_Memorial

Chief Gary Batton said there is a connection between his people and the Irish.

Your story is our story. We didn’t have any income. This was money pulled from our pockets. We had gone through the biggest tragedy that we could endure, and saw what was happening in Ireland and just felt compelled to help.

“The bond between our nations has strengthened over the years. We are blessed to have the opportunity to share our cultures, and meet the generous people who have continued to honour a gift from the heart.”

This is not the first time the Choctaw Nation has been honoured in Ireland. In 1990, Choctaw leaders travelled to Mayo to take part in a re-enactment of an 1848 protest. The gesture was returned in 1992, when Irish leaders took part in a trek from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Former Irish President Mary Robinson also has been named an honorary Choctaw chief.

‘Demonstration of love’

Speaking ahead of today’s Official Dedication, Joe McCarthy, East Cork Municipal District Officer, said, “The Choctaw people were still recovering from their own injustice, and they put their hands in their pockets and they helped strangers. It’s rare to see such generosity. It had to be acknowledged.

“They bestowed a blessing not only on the starving Irish men, women and children, but also on humanity.

The gift from the Choctaw people was a demonstration of love, and I hope that this monument and the Official Dedication acknowledges that, and that it will encourage the Irish people to act as the Choctaw people did.

The ‘Kindred Spirits’ Official Dedication starts at 2pm and a special ceremony on Bailick Road will include traditional Choctaw and Irish music and dancing.

Read: Famine emigration stories: Corkman who made it to US went to war in exchange for land for his family>

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