Cork statue pays tribute to Choctaw Tribe’s generosity during Irish Famine
CORK, IRELAND — A sculpture is being built in Cork to pay tribute to the generosity of the Native American Indian Choctaw tribe during the Irish famine.
‘Kindred Spirits’ is a structure made up of nine giant stainless steel eagle feathers, and is a mark of gratitude and friendship between the Irish and Choctaw people.
During the famine of the mid-19th century, the Choctaw tribe raised money within their community and donated it to the Irish Famine relief. The act of compassion and generosity has never been forgotten by the people of Ireland, and the two communities have shared a close bond ever since.
The Choctaw tribe’s donation was remarkable because they had suffered terrible hardships themselves in the years before the Irish Famine. The American government had forced them to leave their native lands of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi just 16 years earlier.
The Choctaws forced to walk 500 miles
The Choctaws were forced to walk 500 miles to their new ‘home’ of Oklahoma, which the government had designated for them. The walk became known as the ‘Trail of Tears’ due to the suffering endured by the tribe during this time. Many members perished before completing the journey.
Officials in Cork decided to mark the Choctaw’s generosity and commissioned professional sculptor Alex Pentek to create the €100,000 statue. Pentek wrote on his Vimeo page: “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.”
Joe McCarthy, East Cork’s municipal district officer, explained the reason for the project to the Irish Examiner: “These people were still recovering from their own injustice. They put their hands in their pockets and they helped strangers. It’s rare to see such generosity. It had to be acknowledged.”
It is hoped that chiefs of the Choctaw tribe will travel to witness the unveiling of the statue, in the centre of Bailic Park, in Midleton, Co Cork later in the year.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Ireland Calling’s history section. Used with permission. All rights reserved.