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Oklahoma

Varadkar to thank Choctaw Nation for support during Famine

The Taoiseach is travelling to the US next week.

0084 Beast from the East Press_90538686 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar RollingNews.ie RollingNews.ie

THE TAOISEACH IS set to visit the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma during a visit to the US next week.

Leo Varadkar will thank the Native American community for money their ancestors gave to help Irish people affected by the Great Famine in 1847.

Despite facing starvation and poverty themselves, 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.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Varadkar said: “I am captivated by the story of the Choctaws. They were expelled from their ancestral lands in Mississippi, and lost many members of their tribe on the Trail of Tears. Many starved to death or died from exhaustion during their journey on foot to the reservation in Oklahoma.

A few years later, the Choctaw heard of the Irish famine, and of the suffering of our people. Even though some of the people who took their lands were Irish, the Choctaw understood our pain and felt kinship with us, because they had experienced it themselves.

“This is one of the oldest connections we have with America, and it’s a kinship I wish to renew through my visit.”

Cork sculpture

Last year a delegation of over 15 representatives, including Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, attended a public ceremony in Midleton in Cork at which a sculpture commemorating the donation was officially unveiled.

geograph-5211210-by-hywel-williams-1 The sculpture in Midleton, Cork Alex Pentek Alex Pentek

Varadkar will meet Batton next week and make a presentation to the community. The Taoiseach will be in the US ahead of the traditional St Patrick’s week visit to Washington DC.

The sculpture in Cork, Kindred Spirits, was made by sculptor Alex Pentek. It 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.

Read: Choctaw Chief to visit sculpture that commemorates his nation’s generosity during Irish famine

Read: Diarmuid Martin says Mary McAleese’s criticism of the Church was ‘brutally stark’

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