"Kindred Spirits" sculpture in Cork, Ireland to honor Choctaw who helped Irish settlers during famine
16 years after the Choctaw and other "civilized" tribes had endured the Trail of Tears and been forcefully relocated to Oklahoma the great potato famine of was spreading in Ireland. While numerous crops were grown in great quantity in Ireland, Britain had earmarked all of them for export as they were "money crops". The consumables that remained were priced to high for the local Irish Catholic farmers who could only afford the domesticated and easy to grow Irish Lumper that the poor had become dependent on.
In the United Stated and its territories relief efforts were engaged in by numerous agencies to collect money and supplies to help out the famine victims in Ireland. A group of Choctaw people in Scullyville, Oklahoma area had heard of the plight of Irish and a number of Choctaw gathered on March 23, 1847 to collect funds to be passed on to the relief efforts for the Irish people. The Choctaw collected $170, which would equal about $4,800 today. They passed the money collected onto a U.S. famine relief organization.
The sculpture called "Kindred Spirits" with have nine giant, stainless steel eagle feathers arranged forming a protective space. The sculpture is currently being completed by Cork sculptor Alex Pentek. The artist says, “I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed in my work. The $111,000 (€100,000) sculpture will be officially unveiled in a few months and invitations have been sent by Joe McCarthy, East Cork’s municipal district officer, to Choctaw leaders.
This is not the first time that the Choctaw nation has been honored in Ireland. In 1990, Choctaw leaders traveled to County Mayo to take part in a reenactment of the desperate walk undertaken by locals to their landlord in 1848. The gesture was returned in 1992, when Irish commemoration leaders took part in a 500 mile trek from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Former Irish President Mary Robinson has also been named an honorary Choctaw chief. A plaque acknowledging the contribution of the Choctaw people to the one million Irish people starving during the famine was mounted in Dublin’s Mansion House in 1992 and reads,
"Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty."
(*) Calculating the value of money over time is a complicated morass. The figure of $4,800 is derived from using the Consumer Price Index, other computations can provide wildly different values: http://www.measuringworth.com
Woodham-Smith, Cecil (1991) , The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849, Penguin, ISBN 978-0-14-014515-1