Winona LaDuke: A far away Irish tribute to the Choctaw Nation

An eagle feather being sculpted for a monument in Ireland that honors the Choctaw Nation for sending aid in the 1800s. Photo from Alex Pentek

Activist Winona LaDuke reflects on the historic connection between the Choctaw Nation and Ireland:
Let us recognize the fine relationship between Native people of the Americas and the Irish. In the city of Cork in Southern Ireland, a sculpture is being erected to honor the Choctaw Nation. The Choctaw Nation sent $170 (about $5000 in today’s money, according to Choctaw officials) to the Irish for famine relief in 1845.

“These gentle folk were at their most downtrodden, they raised $170 and sent it across the Atlantic to Ireland, to ease our famine woes,” sculptor Alex Pentek told the Irish Examiner.

Pentek is finishing ‘Kindred Spirits,’ a giant, stainless steel sculpture in praise of the Choctaw people. “These people were still recovering from their own injustice. They put their hands in their pockets. They helped strangers. It’s rare to see such generosity. It had to be acknowledged.” The sculpture is a metal set of eagle feathers in a bowl form – $100,000 worth of homage.

Just 13 years before the famine, the Choctaws were forced to march 1,200 miles on the Trail of Tears. The Choctaw, Cherokee, Muskogee, Chickasaw and Seminole (the Five Civilized Tribes) were forced at gunpoint to abandon their fertile lands and exiled to Oklahoma territory. On the way, at least 6,000 perished.

“It was a slowly unfolding horror story. To see members of your family drop to the side of the road and to be powerless. To change that course of history, that stirred my imagination,” said Pentek. So it is, far away, there is a tribute to a little known page in history.

Get the Story:
Winona LaDuke: The Irish, the Potato and the Choctaw (Indian Country Today 3/18)

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