An academic from Goldsmiths, University of London, is part of a group commemorating a Native American tribe’s gift to Ireland during the potato famine.
Dr Padraig Kirwan, a Senior Lecturer in the Literature of the Americas, recently attended an event at Áras an Uachtaráin – the presidential residence in Dublin – to celebrate the Choctaw Nation’s donation of $170 in 1847.
He was part of the delegation that met Irish President Michael D. Higgins, and which also included Chief of the Choctaw Nation in Ireland, Gary Batton.
The Nation’s people decided to raise the funds after hearing of the Irish plight in the mid-19th Century, and were inspired by their tradition of giving ‘without seeking things in return’. The total sum raised is the equivalent of approximately €4,000 today.
Dr Kirwan is also working on a book with American author LeAnne Howe – Eidson Professor in American Literature at the University of Georgia, and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Entitled Trans-Atlantic Reciprocity: The Choctaw-Irish Gift Exchange 1847-2017, the book is a collection of essays from Choctaw and Irish writers regarding the special relationship.
Dr Kirwan told the Irish Times: “With the fantastic event last month, we honoured the Choctaw Nation’s incredible spirit of empathy. We must remember that Chief Batton’s decision to visit Ireland and President Higgins’ wonderful welcome are parts of a long history of international collectivism and connectivity between the Choctaw Nation and our own.
“I would hope that the book and the project that we are working on has the potential to force us to think about empathy and dialogue between culturally distinct communities, while reminding us of the importance of sharing resources. Today, more than ever, we need to hear about that.”
The group hope to bring scholars and citizens of the Nation together again at future events in the UK, Ireland and the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Oklahoma.