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Sculptor pays tribute to Choctaw generosity during the Irish Famine

An Irish artist has opened his heart about why it was so important to him to honour the Choctaw Indians.

The Choctaws demonstrated great kindness to the Irish people during their darkest period – the Great Famine.

The Native American tribe were not a wealthy people, and had suffered tragedy themselves, but they raised $710 for the Irish Famine relief. That is the equivalent of €68,500 today.

Cork statue pays tribute to Choctaw tribe’s generosity during Irish Famine

Earlier this year it was revealed that the City of Cork was to recognise the generosity of the Choctaws with a sculpture in their honour.

The sculpture is called ‘Kindred Spirits’ and is a reference to the gratitude and friendship between the two communities.

It features nine steel eagle feathers rising from the ground to form the shape of an empty bowl, to symbolise the famine.

The sculpture was created by sculptor Alex Pentek, who told the Irish Examiner: “I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed in my work.”

The €100,000 sculpture will be installed in Bailic Park, Middleton, Cork in a few months’ time.

East Cork’s municipal district officer Joe McCarthy has invited the Choctaw chiefs to Cork for the unveiling of the sculpture.

Pentek is hoping they will take up the invitation. He said: “These people were still recovering from their own injustice. They put their hands in their pockets and helped strangers. It’s rare to see such generosity. It had to be acknowledged.”

The Choctaw’s injustice was being forced off their land in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The American Army forced them at gun point to walk 500 miles through the mountains and snow to their new designated home – Oklahoma.

During the three year journey the Choctaws lost 2,500 people to starvation and disease. It became known as the Trail of Tears.
Pentek said: “It was a slowly unfolding horror story. There was no food or shelter for them at stop points.

“To see members of your family drop to the side of the road and to be powerless. To change that course of history. That stirred my imagination.”

The Choctaws’ Trail of Tears had began 16 years before the Irish Famine. For a community still reeling from its own tragedy to have raised such a large sum of money for others was a remarkable act of generosity.

Take a look at an artist’s impression of the sculpture below

Alex Pentek. Kindred Spirits. 2013. Memorial to the Choctaw Nation's aid to Ireland during the the great Famine. from Alex Pentek on Vimeo.

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11 comments

  1. I was born in Kansas to French and Irish ancestors who emigrated in the 1800’s to America. Successful dairy farming in the northeast part of Kansas provided decent, honest, hard-working lives (my great grandmother could still lift a bale of hay at 75) the likes of which are long gone here in America. Thank you for demonstrating a love for one another, as Christ commanded, and as America has failed at miserably. And we are now going to suffer for the “sins of our fathers.” America’s elite and their murderous greed have effectively destroyed our democracy and our representative government. God Speed Ireland…Amen.

  2. Makes me proud to be part Choctaw, Alabama Choctaw.

  3. Rhea A. Mahaney ( née Grant)

    We seem to forget what we did to the Native Americans, taking their land by force. Shame!

  4. a lovely thank you for a lovely gesture. In an age focused on sound bites and appearance this is precious indeed.

  5. a lovely thank you for a lovely gesture. In an age focused on sound bites and appearance this is precious indeed.

  6. Henry McCambridge

    Documentation and history has proven that there was Never a Famine in Ireland
    The British just wanted the Irish People off the land that they INVADED at any price

  7. My dad’s family was among those Choctaws….marched out of Mississippi on the Trail of Tears…grandmother on mother’s side did not survive that journey…. Thank you to my Irish brothers and sisters for this incredible tribute. Bright Blessings!

  8. True blood brothers the Choctaw Nation

  9. Not much has changed since that time. The English still looking after their own interests and not the interests of their ‘subjects’

  10. I am also a Welch ( paternal grandmother), but my people landed in Connecticut.
    I believe it was the English who should have protected their “subjects” during the Great Famine. Instead, they exported all of the good crops to feed the English, leaving our people to starve. Those in charge were all English or Angol-Irish. Sad comment on man’s inhumanity to man!

  11. Janet Stollmaier

    This is a truly beautiful tribute to those that helped victims of the terrible famine in Ireland. My ancestors the Fitzgeralds, Burns, Doyles, and Welsh families left and came to Kentucky because of the famine. Ireland should have done more to protect its people. Sad part of history.

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