In 1831 the Choctaw Tribe was forced by the American army, at gunpoint, to march across mountains, 500 miles to Oklahoma. The trek was called “The Trail of Tears.” The tribe was stripped of their land in Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.
These are Robison’s thoughts on the experience of visiting the Great Hunger memorial on Easter Sunday, the anniversary of the Easter Rising, 1916.
In late March of 2016 I traveled with my husband to Ireland in celebration of his 40th birthday. As a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, it was important to me to make time to visit the monument by Alex Pentek, ‘Kindred Spirits.’ ‘Kindred Spirits’ is a structure made up of nine giant stainless steel eagle feathers.
“By creating an empty bowl symbolic of the Great Irish Famine formed from the seemingly fragile and rounded shaped eagle feathers used in Choctaw ceremonial dress, it is my aim to communicate the tenderness and warmth of the Choctaw Nation who provided food to the hungry when they themselves were still recovering from their own tragic recent past,” wrote Pentek.
Quite unexpectedly I ended up at the monument, in Midleton on, Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016) which happened to be the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland. This was a rebellion against British rule that paved the way for the independence of the Republic of Ireland. Fourteen of the 16 rebel leaders were executed by the British by firing squad after the six-day uprising, during which rebels seized buildings across Dublin and declared an Irish republic.
After viewing the ‘Kindred Spirits’ monument we walked a few blocks over to Church of the Most Holy Rosary where the Sunday Easter service was underway. As we entered the 120-year-old Roman Catholic church we were just in time to hear the priest speak about the significance of the story of the resurrection.
The priest stated, “Goodness always wins; love always wins.”
No matter the hardship, oppression, and suffering people may endure, the righteous and moral path always comes out ahead. His vision of the resurrection was a teaching of hope and faith where the spirit of the light will always re-emerge and prevail after the dark.
I could not help but relate all of these together: Pentek’s monument honoring the Chahta’s generosity to the Irish people only 16 years after they had been forced to walk to Oklahoma; the Easter Rising where the Irish people decided that they would be under the rule of the British no more; and this priest’s retelling of Christ’s resurrection from death as a symbol of hope, faith, and the power of love.
I look at where our people are today and I see Chahta’s all over the world thriving, not just surviving. During a time when we had suffered such grave hardship, deep soulwound loss of both land, family, and cultural identity we still worked to help others in need.
We rise by up lifting each other.
Faith, Family, and Culture.
Faith in that the light will always prevail over the dark; Family in that we are one people, one world, and we take care of one another; and Culture so that the spirit of generosity, compassion, love, and resilience of our people will continue to live throughout the lives of our children, grandchildren, and beyond.
Yakoke (Thank you).