Irish Studies at the University of Montana, in partnership with American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS), the Friends of Irish Studies, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Butte Silver Bow Archives will host the 2016 American Conference for Irish Studies west in Missoula, Montana from October 20-23.
The theme of the conference is “Her Exiled Children: Ireland and Irish America.” This was the term that Patrick Pearse, leader of the Easter Rising, applied to the Irish of America as he read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Monday, 1916.
A full schedule of events and activities has been organized to commemorate the Easter Rising and to celebrate the long and historic relationship between Ireland and Montana. Among the featured guests are Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson and Governor Steve Bullock of Montana.
Guests will be given a hearty Irish welcome to Montana, in the cities of Anaconda and Butte. A tour of both cities is organized for Thursday, October 20. The tour leader is Dave Emmons, professor emeritus of history at the University of Montana and author of the seminal texts “The Butte Irish” and “Beyond the American Pale.”
Delegates will be received by members of Division of 1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians at their hall in Anaconda. This division, founded in 1885, is the longest continuously active division west of the Mississippi.
Following a tour of the facility and town, the group will travel to Butte and a reception at the Butte Silver Bow Archives, home to a very rich repository of primary material relating to the history of the Irish in the west. A tour of the archives is followed by a tour of the city, after which the group returns to Missoula where Irish history meets the streets.
Friday marks the official opening of the conference and the presentation of papers. Ellen Crain and Aubrey Jaap from the Butte Silver Bow Archives will present to the public the travelling exhibit, “Erin’s Exiled Children: Irish America and the Road to the Rising.” The exhibit sets the theme for the day, which will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the Easter Rising. Developing this theme will be independent scholar, Myles Dungan, who will present a paper entitled “How to Lose a Country in Sixteen Executions.” The day culminates in the President’s Lecture which will be delivered at the UC Ballroom on the University of Montana campus. The speaker is the chair of history at the University of Limerick, Professor Ruan O’Donnell, and the title is “Irish America and the 1916 Rising.”
Saturday is the day the conference celebrates the historical relationship between Ireland and America in general, and the close connection between Ireland and Montana in particular. The Irish love of sport is a prominent feature of this day’s activities. Hurling, the most ancient of Irish games, is the sport; Loyola Sacred Heart Ram field is the venue; and the teams come from the Northwest and Canada.
The keynote speakers have a personal connection to Montana. Breandan Feiritéar will deliver a talk entitled “Dragging it Home: Songs and Stories from Gaelic America.” Feiritéar has been following the trail of Irish-speaking emigrants for over 40 years and presenting his findings on radio and television. His documentary on Butte, “Scéal ar Butte,” will be shown following his talk.
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, poet in residence at Notre Dame, reads from her large corpus of original poems and talks also of her family and the memories they her generation of living and working in Montana.
The evening culminates with a banquet at which the Ambassador Anne Anderson and Governor Steve Bullock, will be guests of honor. Both will speak to the importance of the relationship between Ireland and Montana.
Anderson’s presence at the conference is highly symbolic and indicative of how Montana is viewed in Ireland. The former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, on her visit to Montana in 2006, spoke of the enormous contribution Montana had made to Ireland and to the special place this state has the hearts of all Irish people.
Anderson’s first official visit to Montana was scheduled deliberately to coincide with the conference as a reminder of the high regard in which the Irish government and people hold their friends in Montana. The evening will conclude with presentations and a celebration of Irish music and dance.