Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton leads Choctaw and Irish dancers in the traditional Choctaw Snake Dance at the June 18, 2017, dedication ceremony for the sculpture Kindred Spirits in Bailick Park in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland. The sculpture commemorates the tribe's donation to the Irish people during the Great Famine. Photo: Deidre Elrod / Choctaw Nation

Clara Caufield: The connections between the Indians and the Irish

The Indians and the Irish
Native Sun News Today Columnist

We have just observed St. Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite holidays, due to my Irish heritage, coming from my father, a red-headed, white skinned and freckled guy. He ever advised to drink a drop or two of Tulamore Dew and dance a little jig on this annual holiday.

And, by gosh and by golly, he was a great “jigger”, putting his feet up high and fast, his elbows on his hips, even for a long tune, grinning all the time, even hootin and hollerin in the process, akin to a war cry. Similar to the Indians, the Irish like to celebrate by dancing a ‘jig’, a red-headed version of the Indian “fancy” dance.

As I was growing up, Dad ever emphasized the similarities between the Irish and the Indian, since he had married my Cheyenne mother. “We are more alike than different,” he would proclaim. I remember how he explained it to me when I was a child:


“First, we both had to put up with the darned English. Many years ago, they put a close eye on the Emerald Isle, the sweet green Irish lands, one of the most beautiful places in the world, which is part of your 'roots'. They invaded our country, and due to having more soldiers and bigger guns, got that done. But, the Irish did not give up easy, even to this day. Both the Irish and the Indians was fierce warriors, trying to save their homelands from those fellows always dressed in red."

(By the way, Dad was a fierce warrior too, in WW11, a member of the First Special Forces, the Devil’s Brigade, later posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. But, he did not care to talk about that.)

“Then,” he continued, “The English turned their awful attention on America. There just wasn’t enough of us, both the Irish and the Indians, on either side to fend them off. Then, the English was trying to take over the world, stealing all the country they could get."

"And both the Indians and the Irish were tribal people. The Irish called them clans and the Indians usually called them bands, but those were small groups of people, living together, related to each other. They both had chiefs, the toughest guys who took care of everybody."

"The English hunted down and killed off all the Irish priests, called Druids, just like your Cheyenne medicine men. Those boys believed in all of creation, even that trees had spirits and hearts, living creatures just like you and me. The English did not recognize that. When you take away a people’s religion, you take away their heart,” he explained. “The Catholics and other churches didn’t like the Irish religion,” he said. “They didn’t care for the Indian religion either.”

“And,” he continued. “Both of your sides knew quite a bit about horses. Do you know that, even today, some of the greatest racehorses come from Ireland? That is probably why so many of the Irish turned cowboy or got into the mounted Calvary. We know how to get along with horses.”

“The Indians got some good horses too,” I said.

“Yep”, he chuckled.

“What else Dad?” I breathed.

“Both of our people are good singers and story tellers,” he explained. “What they call the oral tradition.” “Oral? “That just means talking, telling poems or stories and singing.”


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