- By Native News Online Staff
DURANT, Okla. — Two years ago, on March 12, 2018, the prime minister of Ireland visited the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Okla. He was in the United States during a week-long tour to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar, who left that position in June 2020, wanted to visit the Choctaw Nation to thank the tribe for the generous gift their ancestors gave to the Irish back in 1847 during the Great Famine of 1845-1852 in Ireland.
After experiencing their own difficult times during the Trail of Tears 16 years prior, when the Choctaws heard about the suffering of the Irish were experiencing, they collected $170—the equivalent of $4,400 in today’s dollars—and through a group of Quakers sent it across the Atlantic Ocean to help feed the starving people in Ireland.
“The story of our two peoples — the Irish people and the Choctaw people — symbolizes the spirit of St. Patrick, our patron saint, perhaps better than anything else,” Varadkar told a gathering of tribal elders and dignitaries.
He later surprised the crowd with an announcement that Ireland created a scholarship so that Choctaw students could study in his country.
“Your story is our story. We didn’t have any income. This was money pulled from our pockets. We had gone through the biggest tragedy that we could endure,” he said, referencing the Trail of Tears. “The bond between our nations has strengthened over the years. We are blessed to have the opportunity to share our cultures and meet the generous people who have continued to honor a gift from the heart.”
The 2018 visit was not the first time a leader of Ireland acknowledged the generosity of the Choctaws in 1847. In 1995, Irish President Mary Robinson visited the Choctaw Nation to thank the Choctaws for the funds sent to Ireland. She noted that the only link was “a common humanity, a common sense of another people suffering as the Choctaw Nation had suffered when being removed from their tribal land.”
More Stories Like ThisNative News Weekly (June 3, 2023): D.C. Briefs
House Passes Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Deal; How Native American Members of Congress Voted
History Made as First Navajo Appointed U.S. Federal Judge in California
California Bill Aims to Increase State Funding for Tribal Housing
Navajo Nation Leaders Recognized the Fallen on Memorial Day
Native News is free to read.
We hope you enjoyed the story you've just read. For the past dozen years, we’ve covered the most important news stories that are usually overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps. Most readers donate between $10 and $25 to help us cover the costs of salaries, travel and maintaining our digital platforms. If you’re in a position to do so, we ask you to consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to join the Founder's Circle. All donations help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.