Monday, January 30, 2017

1847: A gift from the dispossessed Choctaw to the starving Irish, by JD

I've been watching this series on Ch4 with Ardal O'Hanlon doing a tour round Ireland.

In the third of the programmes he was talking to an artist called Waylon Gary White Deer who is of the Choctaw Nation and now lives and works in Donegal.

Their conversation centred on something I had not known about. It was that the Choctaw Nation made a donation to Irish famine relief in 1847! I think gobsmacked is the (Irish) word for my reaction to this information. I didn't know that. The story of the Great Famine in Ireland is perhaps not as well known in England as it should be. Approximately one million people starved to death. A further one million or more followed St Brendan's example and set off across the Atlantic to the USA and Canada.

Inevitably the Irish diaspora came into contact with the Choctaw who had themselves been forced from their ancestral lands, and they would learn each other's history including the Famine in Ireland.

On March 23, 1847, the Indians of the Choctaw nation took up an amazing collection. They raised $170 for Irish Famine relief, an incredible sum at the time worth in the tens of thousands of dollars today.

They had an incredible history of deprivation themselves, forced off their lands in 1831 and made to embark on a 500 mile trek to Oklahoma called “The Trail of Tears.” Ironically the man who forced them off their lands was Andrew Jackson, the son of Irish immigrants.

Here is a short video retelling the story and showing a commemorative statue erected in Cork and how that came about-

Last word must go to Waylon Gary White Deer, talking about the USA but it could apply equally in any country:

"Sadly, the day will come when all the carefully crafted and promoted white vs black and liberal vs conservative and rich vs poor and old immigrant vs new immigrant and MSNBC vs Fox News distractions will fade, and then everyone in the place they now call America will wake up surrounded by their military and finally understand how it feels to be Indian…"

Other references-
Sackerson adds:

Alfred Boisseau, "Louisiana Indians Walking Along A Bayou", 1847
Charles Joseph Staniland (1838–1916), “The Emigrant Ship”
Commemorative plaque, Mansion House, Dublin

1 comment:

Michael O'Keefe said...

Great story!

I calculated the Choctaw contribution. It was rather remarkable, approx $3000 in today's money!

Thanks for the article and the for keeping it in archive.