With history being made around us everyday we are often unaware of its existence and significance. Sometimes it takes a moment of reflection on the past and a fresh perspective to see how far we have come and the heart in humanity.
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The Trail of Tears was the traumatic removal of over 125,000 Native American people from land that was rightfully theirs. They were forced to give up their land in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. During the winter, the thousands of members of multiple tribes, including the Choctaw tribe trekked 500 miles at gunpoint to Oklahoma. Oklahoma was assigned to become their new home. This article isn’t a rehash of that. It is, instead, a look at the good that members of the Choctaw tribe made out of the situation later on. This is about how the people of the taking something negative and using it as a springboard for growth and caring for your neighbor.
Sixteen years after and 4,000 miles apart, Ireland was experiencing what history has documented as the Irish Famine also called the “potato famine”. After about 100 years of steady crop, there was suddenly no potato yield. That meant that there was no potato crop for private consumption or for selling. Prices rose for farming supplies, many people fell ill and nearly a million died.
The Irish Famine lasted for 4 years. It became the second deadliest disaster in Great Britain and Ireland (the nation’s joint name prior to Irish independence). Naturally, news of this event made its way across the ocean. Many groups and organizations chipped in support of the Irish people during the great famine. One of these groups was the Choctaw Nation. In an overwhelmingly moving gesture, the Choctaw tribe raised and donated $170.
In response to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s kindness and to bear in mind the true kindness of others, a statue entitled “Kindred Spirits” was raised in Midleton, County Cork. The monument is credited to Alex Pentek. The statue consists of nine large stainless steel eagle feathers. It stands as a symbol of friendship and gratitude between the Indian tribe and Irish immigrants.
“By creating an empty bowl symbolic of the Great Irish Famine formed from the seemingly fragile and rounded shaped eagle feathers used in Choctaw ceremonial dress, it is my aim to communicate the tenderness and warmth of the Choctaw Nation who provided food to the hungry when they themselves were still recovering from their own tragic recent past.”
Annually there is a walk, The Tipperary Walk, in remembrance of the hardships of the Trail of Tears. Since the Great Irish Famine, many individuals of both the Choctaw and Irish cultures have traveled to visit the other and express their gratitude and friendship. If all of humanity could implement the selflessness of the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma and see kindred spirits in others the world would progress immeasurably. But since we have seen it happen once, we know it can be done.