Taoiseach to visit Native American tribe that donated money during Irish famine

In 1847, the tribe raised a massive sum of US$170 (€138)

Taoiseach to visit Native American tribe that donated money during Irish famine

Choctaw Native Americans Gary and Dr Janie Whitedeer visit students at Gaelscoil Cholmcille in Santry in 2007 | Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to visit a Native American tribe that donated money to Ireland during the Great Famine.

His visit to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma will be part of his St Patrick's Day trip to the United States.

On March 23rd 1847, the tribe took up a collection of US$170 (€138) for Irish famine relief - this would be worth thousands today.

This was seen as particularly poignant, given their own history of enduring deprivation themselves.

In 1831, the Choctaw Indians were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi to what is now known as Oklahoma.

The Choctaws were the first of several tribes to make this difficult trek - or Trail of Tears, as it became known.

Many of the Choctaws did not survive the trip - and those that did faced hardships establishing new homes, schools, and churches.

'Kindred Spirits' by Alex Pentek in Midleton, Co Cork | Image via @IrelandEmbUSA on Twitter

Only 16 years after this journey, the Choctaws learned of the famine in Ireland.

As the Choctaws themselves had faced hunger and death on the first Trail of Tears, they felt a great empathy with the Irish people.

A monument to the Choctaw Nation was unveiled in Cork last year.

The 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture, by Alex Pentek, stands at a park in Midleton.

During the famine, over one million people died from disease and starvation.

While almost a further two million people left through forced emigration.

Mr Varadkar says he is captivated by their story and wants to renew one of Ireland's oldest connections with the US during his visit.