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The Irish and the Choctaw Nation: Bound through suffering
Two seemingly unrelated cultures, the Irish and Native American Choctaw tribe share a unique bond of friendship. This is a story of how at one of Ireland’s greatest hours of need, another oppressed culture came to it’s aid.
The 1840’s are widely considered one of bleakest periods in Irish history. The Great Famineâ, also commonly referred to as the Great Hungerâ, had a decimating effect on Ireland. Over a period of seven years, from 1845 -1852, over 1 million people died and approximately another million emigrated. To put into perspective, the Irish population is still far from pre-famine figures. Census records of 1841/42 put the population at 8.2 million and in all likelihood it was probably over 8.5 million. As of today it’s at approximately 4.5 5 million. The Great Famine is a period in history that is deeply ingrained in the Irish psyche. It’s responsible for our diaspora and is a large part of the oppression that’s associated with Irish history.
The Choctaw Nation and the Trail of Tears
Across the Atlantic Ocean another culture suffered an oppression similar to the Irish. The plight and persecution of Native Americans is a well-documented yet strangely overlooked period in American history and one with many similarities to the Irish during the same era. One event in particular, approximately 15 years prior to the Great Famine, may well have acted as bridge between the two groups. The Trail of Tears was a harrowing pilgrimage that the five Native American Nations; Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw were made endure. Forced from their homelands across the South-Eastern United States they were relocated by militia to a designated area, in Oklahoma. Over the 500-mile trek, approximately 10,000 died to disease, starvation and exposure to the sun. Over the course of twenty years Native Americans had to suffer the same routes as their predecessors, making the journey progressively more difficult as natural resources depleted over time. The Trial of Tears, and the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which preceded it, passed under the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, a democrat whose parents had actually emigrated from Co. Antrim.
The term Trial of Tearsâ apparently originated from a chief of the Choctaw tribe, who referred to their removal as a trail of tears and deathâ. Of the 23,000 Choctaws who made the journey over half perished. A particularly cruel side point to the Choctaw tribe was that they had actually fought under Andrew Jackson, when he had been a general, in the crucial Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, between the United States and United Kingdom. Regardless, President Jackson used the removal of the Choctaw nation as a model for the future removal of other tribes.
The Choctaw Nation reach out to Ireland
It is unclear how in 1847, at the height of the Great Famine, the Choctaws heard of the plight of the Irish, but what is clear is that they heard of an oppression and suffering that they knew all too well. Two communities who had suffered terribly at the hand of Imperialism; their lands invaded and taken from them, starvation, their culture and beliefs banned. In a truly extraordinary donation, a group of Choctaws met in their new home west of the Mississippi; Scullyville Oklahoma, and decided to send whatever aid they could to help the Irish. Despite the previous years’ brutal treatment of them and their resources they were able to raise $170 dollars for the cause and passed it onto a famine relief organisation. The sum would easily be into the tens of thousands in modern currency.
Acknowledgement of the Chowtaws noble donation has grown in recent years and a wonderful monument crafted by famed Irish sculptor Alex Pentek was installed last year in Ballic Park, Midleton, Cork. â˜Kindred spirits displays nine steal eagle feathers meeting in a bowl shape. The bowl-shape is a nod in itself to the plight and starvation of the famine while the American Eagle feathers are an obvious nod to the Choctaws themselves.
Here at TwoTon Murphy we’ve also decided to commemorate the Choctaw’s unique place in Irish history with our Choctaw Nationâ design. Available for Men in Truffle and White and Women in White and Heather Grey, the design features the titles TwoTon Murphy and Choctaw Nation in unique fonts with an arrow and eagle feather part of the design as further tips to the hat to these kind and noble people. Although one of the less-heralded associations we may have with Ireland and other cultures, the unique bond between these two small but culturally rich groups deserves to be celebrated and proudly displayed.