New Heritage Centre Planned for Midleton

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A new Visitor Centre and Museum in Midleton, linking a kindred spirit shared between Ireland and the Native American Choctaw Tribe, is being planned.

The proposed investment comes on foot of a Government commitment to provide a Scholarship for Choctaw people to study in Ireland.

In 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 days representatives of the Indian nation travelled from Oklahoma to meet with Council officials to discuss plans for the development of the Visitor Centre.

Due to the close proximity of Midleton to Cork City via its rail and bus links, the group is also looking to provide boarding and recreational facilities to accommodate students who come to Ireland to avail of the Scholarship.

It will become a place to showcase Native American language, food, and stickball - one of the oldest team sports in North America, similar to lacrosse.

East Cork Municipal District Officer, Joe McCarthy has stressed that plans for the Visitor Centre, accommodation and recreational amenities are only “ideas right now.”

He said the group “have the option of looking for an existing structure of appropriate size, or acquiring land and building the facilities.”

The Museum is intended as a place in which to share the cultures, history and stories of the Native American Oklahoma tribe and the Irish people, while boosting tourism for both regions.

It is understood that particular attention will be made to the Irish Famine which mirrors the difficulties endured by the Native American Tribes, and the resilience they have shown to overcome hardships.

1n 1847, sixteen years after they faced hunger and death on what became known as the Trail of Tears, the Choctaw nation sent $170, the equivalent of $5,000 in today’s money, to help in the famine relief effort. 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.

Choctaw Indian Chief, Garry Batton, who supports the idea said the community led project would help more people discover the wealth of history and culture between both nations.

In recent years a number of Irish towns and villages began paying tribute to their great deed, recognising the great empathy shown to the Irish people.

Midleton Town erected their own tribute in 2014, a stainless steel bowl made of eagle feathers, which is in situ at Bailick Park.

Already the monument has invigorated a new interest in our history among US tourists.

 

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