21 May 2006

The Choctaw mite

It is good to come across things that have previously passed me by. This story is particularly uplifting:

On March 23, 1847 a group of Choctaws gathered in Scullyville, Oklahoma., to raise a relief fund. Despite their meagre resources, they collected $170 ( other sources quote a figure of $710 but the amount is not important) and forwarded it to a U.S. famine relief organization to assist the people of Ireland who were of course at the time suffering at the hands of an appalling famine

What makes the donation unexpected and extraordinary was the tribe's recent past: in 1831 their lands were seized and they were forced to undertake a dreadful journey to Oklahoma (the Trail of Tears) during which more than half of the tribe died of exposure, malnutrition, and disease.

The Choctaw acted out of compassion for a people facing disaster. Greater consideration has been given to the Famine which has led to renewed recognition to this action. In 1995 the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, visited the Choctaw nation:

"…. I am here to thank the Choctaw Nation for their extraordinary generosity and thoughtfulness when they learned in 1847 about the plight of poor Irish famine victims,…..” she said “….Thousands of miles away, in no way linked to the Choctaw Nation until then, the only link being a common humanity, a common sense of another people suffering as the Choctaw Nation had suffered when being removed from their tribal land….I believe that we have in common that bond of humanity and it should be an additional reason why we should particularly reach out now to countries who suffer from poverty and hunger….”

There is a plaque in Dublin that honours the Choctaw contribution: "Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty."

the Choctaw gift

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