A Native American Indian delegation visited Midleton this week to acknowledge a kindred spirit between their nation and ours. Bonded by starvation and hardships endured in both cultures, a delegation from the Choctaw visited the Kindred Spirits monument at Bailick Park on Tuesday to renew their friendship with the people of Midleton.
The town erected the tribute in 2014, a stainless steel bowl made of Eagle feathers, in recognition of a gift of aid by the Choctaw Nation to the Irish people during the famine years. In 2017, the 170th anniversary of the great Irish Famine, the East Cork Municipality officially dedicated the structure in association with Gaelscoil Mhainistir Na Corann. The delegation on Tuesday was led by Chantelle Standerfer, Choctaw Language Instructor and Dara McCoy, Communications Officer for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and also visited Gaelscoil Mhainistir Na Corann as part of their itinerary.
Since the monument in Bailick Park was erected, it has generated a new interest in our history among US tourists. To further strengthen ties between both cultures a Scholarship for Choctaw students to study in Ireland is currently open for applications. The first intake of students is expected in UCC this autumn. Last March Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made the announcement while on a visit to the Choctaw community in Durant Oklahoma. He said the Scholarship will provide a great opportunity for both cultures, “in a sharing of knowledge that will enrich both our peoples”.
In recent years a number of Irish towns and villages began paying tribute to their great deed, recognising their empathy shown to the Irish people.
1n 1847, 16-years after they faced hunger and death on what became known as the ‘Trail of Tears’, the Choctaw nation sent $170 to help in the famine relief effort - the equivalent of $100,000 in today’s money. They showed extreme generosity considering that, in 1831, the Choctaw Indians were forcible removed from their lands by the white man and relocated to what is now Oklahoma.
The Choctaw were just one of several tribes to be removed from their ancestral home along the banks of the Mississippi.