The chief of an Native American nation and a number of his people will be special guests at the official unveiling of a magnificent eagle feather sculpture which commemorates the generosity of his forebears to the Irish during the Great Famine.

In 1847 when the Choctaw nation heard of the starving Irish they responded by contributing $170 (about $4,400 today) to send food aid to Ireland.

This show of solidarity came despite the great hardships being faced by the Choctaw people themselves. They were also living in starvation and poverty having been driven by white settlers from the southern states to the more barren Oklahoma in what became known as “The Trail of Tears”. Thousands died on the trek.

Native American Choctaw and Irish cultures will come together on Sunday, June 18 for the official dedication of the Kindred Spirits sculpture in Midleton, Co Cork, which commemorates a donation made by the Choctaw.

The chief of the Choctaw Nation, Chief Gary Batton, and a delegation of 15 Choctaw representatives will attend the public ceremony at 2pm at Bailick Park The event will include traditional Choctaw and Irish music and dancing, as well as several activities around the sculpture and the story.

Kindred Spirits, by Cork-based sculptor Alex Pentek, was commissioned in 2013 by the former Midleton Town Council to commemorate the Choctaw generosity.

Alex Pertek’s ‘Kindred Spirits’ sculpture consists of nine 20ft eagle feathers that represent a bowl filled with food. Picture: Neil Danton
Alex Pertek’s ‘Kindred Spirits’ sculpture consists of nine 20ft eagle feathers that represent a bowl filled with food. Picture: Neil Danton

The sculpture comprising of nine, 20ft-high eagle feathers, arranged in a circular shape, represents a bowl filled with food, presented to those suffering hunger.

Joe McCarthy, the county council’s East Cork municipal district officer, said the Choctaw people were still recovering from their own injustice: “But they put their hands in their pockets and they helped strangers. It’s rare to see such generosity. It had to be acknowledged. They bestowed a blessing not only on the starving Irish men, women and children, but also on humanity.”

“The gift from the Choctaw people was a demonstration of love and I hope that this monument and the official dedication acknowledges that, and that it will encourage the Irish people to act as the Choctaw people did.”

Ahead of his upcoming visit, Chief Gary Batton spoke about the connection between his people and the Irish: “Your story is our story. We didn’t have any income.

“This was money pulled from our pockets. We had gone through the biggest tragedy that we could endure, and saw what was happening in Ireland and just felt compelled to help.

“The bond between our nations has strengthened over the years. We are blessed to have the opportunity to share our cultures, and meet the generous people who have continued to honour a gift from the heart,” Chief Batton said.

In 1990, Choctaw leaders travelled to Co Mayo to take part in a re-enactment of an 1848 eviction.

Their nation also declared former President Mary Robinson an honorary Choctaw chief.


Lifestyle

It's never been more important to choose flowers and trees according to their environmental needs, says Peter DowdallIn these times of climate change, choose plants to weather all conditions

Avoid techno-tantrums by swapping their tablet for one of these gripping night-time tales.The best bedtime audiobooks for children and teens

Close to Lisbon but far less crowded, this pleasant town is the ideal base for rest and relaxation, says Liz Ryan.Cascais: The dreamy Portuguese seaside town you really need to know

Here are some ideas if you’re finding shows limited in terms of representation.5 shows that will offer your child a more diverse view of the world

More From The Irish Examiner