The year 1847 was an extremely difficult one for the Irish people. Known as “Black 47,” this was the worst year of the famine in Ireland, where close to one million people were starving to death. Humanitarian aid came from around the world, but the unexpected generosity of the Choctaw Nation stands out, and began a bond between the two people that continues to this day.
The Choctaw Native Americans raised $170 of their own money—equivalent to thousands of dollars today— in aid to supply food for the starving Irish. This exemplifies the incredible generosity of the Choctaw people, because just 16 years before, they were forced by U.S. President Andrew Jackson to leave their ancestral lands and march 500 miles on the “Trail of Tears,” in terrible winter conditions. Many did not survive.
Today, the Irish people are still grateful for the generosity of the Choctaw people. A monument stands in Midleton’s Bailick Park as a tribute to the tribe’s charity during the Great Famine. Named “Kindred Spirits,” the magnificent memorial features nine giant stainless steel feathers, shaped into an empty bowl.
The creator, artist Alex Pentak, explained, “I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed in my work.”
Beyond the monument, there are many other examples of the continued link between the Irish and Choctaw people. In 1990, several Choctaw leaders took part in the first annual Famine walk at Doolough in County Mayo; two years later, Irish commemoration leaders walked the 500 mile length of the Trail of Tears. A former Irish president is now an honorary Choctaw Chief. Most importantly, both Choctaw and Irish people now work together to provide assistance for people suffering from famine worldwide.
Know Before You Go
Visible from Bailick Road, south of Midleton City Centre.