The Irish people and the Native American Choctaw nation are bonded by the difficulties they have endured in their respective cultures and the resilience they have shown to overcome hardships, the Chief of the Choctaw Nation told a gathering in Co Cork yesterday.
Chief Gary Batton told of the similarities between the two people as a special feather sculpture was unveiled in Bailick Park, Midleton, Co Cork. The ‘Kindred Spirits’ sculpture commemorates a donation made by the Choctaw people to Ireland during the great famine.
Chief Gary Batton said he became emotional when he saw the sculpture.
“The people in Ireland know how to get a gathering together. It is hard for me to express what a great honour this is this tribute to our Choctaw ancestors. I can’t tell you the feelings it gives to me to see it in person.
“We know the story of the tragedy of all our people that we endured and over came. But we knew once we heard of the story of hardship of the Irish people we knew it was our time to step up and help out. We have endured — the Choctaw people and the people of Ireland.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Co Cork, Cllr Seamus McGrath said the Irish people were very grateful for the “kindness of strangers” during the great famine.
“To think they heard about the hardship that the Irish people were enduring during the great famine and they made whatever effort they could to help out. It is an extraordinary story. It is only right that we in Cork would mark that and that there would be a tribute to that act of generosity.”
Close to 20 representatives from the Choctaw Nation from Oklahoma attended the public ceremony. It included traditional Choctaw and Irish music and dancing, as well as activities around the sculpture and the story.