Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland addresses leadership of the Choctaw Nation and other dignitaries in Durant, Oklahoma, on March 12,, 2018. Chief Gary Batton is seated on the left. Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., is on the right. Photo: Choctaw Nation
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Choctaw Nation welcomes Irish prime minister for historic visit

The Choctaw Nation welcomed the prime minister of Ireland for a historic visit that highlighted the strong ties between the two governments.

In 1847, the tribe sent a donation of about $170 to help the Irish people during their Great Famine. The donation was remarkable, considering that the Choctaws had just been forced out of their homelands by the United States only a decade earlier.

"Saying thank you to the @choctawnationOK for their support for the Irish nation during the Great Famine," Prime Minister Leo Varadkar wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday.

Varadkar, whose official title is Taoiseach, returned the favor during his visit to Oklahoma. He announced a scholarship program that will allow Choctaw students to further their education in Ireland.

“We consider it a great honor,” Chief Gary Batton said at the ceremony in Durant. “Our nations have shared a similar history of tragedy, perseverance and strength,” he said. “We have a kindred spirit.”

Batton himself led a Choctaw delegation to Ireland last year. They attended the dedication ceremony for the Kindred Spirits sculpture, which recognizes the historic ties between the two nations.

Previously, the tribe welcomed Mary Robinson, Ireland's then-president, to Oklahoma in 1995. Varadkar, though, is the first taoiseach to visit Choctaw country.

Varadkar is in the United States all week and Oklahoma was the first stop of his tour. He is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

According to Varadkar, the Choctaw scholarship program will start in the fall of 2019.

Read More on the Story:
Irish prime minister visits the Choctaws to thank them for $170 donation 171 years ago (The Oklahoman March 13, 2018)
Choctaw Nation welcomes Irish PM (KTEN March 12, 2018)
Choctaw generosity to Famine Ireland saluted by Varadkar (The Irish Times March 13, 2018)
Varadkar announces scholarship for Choctaw students (The Irish Times March 12, 2018)
Taoiseach thanks Choctaw Nation for support during Great Famine (The Independent March 12, 2018)
Taoiseach honours 'sacred memory' by announcing scholarship for Native American students (The Evening Echo March 12, 2018)
Leo Varadkar announces Choctaw scholarship scheme (BBC News March 12, 2018)

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Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture (June 19, 2017)
Choctaw artist Waylon Gary White Deer finds new home in Ireland (April 5, 2017)
Choctaw Nation leader hopes to travel to Ireland for monument (March 25, 2015)
Winona LaDuke: A far away Irish tribute to the Choctaw Nation (March 19, 2015)
Ireland town builds monument to thank Choctaw Nation for aid (March 9, 2015)
NMAI Blog: Choctaw Nation helped Ireland during 1847 famine (March 17, 2011)