A sculpture of nine eagle feathers commemorates the time in 1847, during the Great Hunger, when the Native American Choctaw People donated a substantial amount of money to the Irish famine relief.
In 2015, a statue was commissioned to be built in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, to honor the kindness of the Choctaws. But the story begins in 1831, when the Choctaw people were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi.
A few years later, Choctaws learned of people starving in Ireland. Only sixteen years had passed since the Choctaws had faced hunger and death on the first Trail of Tears and a great empathy was felt when they heard such a similar tale coming from across the ocean. Individual Choctaws collected and donated $170 in 1847 to assist the Irish people.
Jump ahead a century and a half. It took a year for artist Alex Pentek to create Kindred Spirits. With its nine eagle feathers reaching 20 feet into the air, the statue represents “this great moment of compassion, strength, and unity,” said Pentek.
The official unveiling is expected to take place later this spring. For the month of March we would like to share with you a story from a Choctaw Nation employee. Shannon Compton recently visited Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, and expressed her thoughts and feelings when she saw the statue.
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 Black ‘47 , the worst year of the famine, is mounted in Dublin’s Mansion House 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.”