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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Barry Clifford: In 1847 Was The Year It All Began

In 1847 was the year it all began
Deadly pains of hunger drove a million from the land
They journeyed not for glory
Their motive was not greed
A voyage of survival
Across the story sea

Christy Moore ( Singer)  from the song- City Of Chicago


In 1847 too, the Choctaw Indians, an indigenous and oppressed people in North America, sent money to Ireland to help the Irish famine victims. It was a total of $174, an awful lot of money then and worth about €10,000 now, and worth millions more in terms of ratio to what they had and ultimate gave that in the end their gift could only be called: Priceless.

To one newspaper then this act of kindness was not directly attributed to the Choctaws but to the white man when it wrote this base prejudice piece built from ignorance: “What an agreeable reflection it must give to the Christian and the philanthropist to witness this evidence of civilization and Christian spirit existing among our red neigbour. They are repaying the Christian world for bringing them out of their benighted ignorance and heathen barbarism. Not only by contributing a ‘few dollars’, (That $174 bc)  but by affording evidence that the labours of the Christian missionary have not been in vain.” 
It was lost in translation that a philanthropist is normally someone that has money when the Choctaws certainly did not.

A decade earlier these were the same tribe that were forced to march on the infamous Trail Of Tears after their homeland were stolen from them, and many of their people murdered that included women and children in order to carry out that robbery. Yet, this long beaten down tribe was no doubt moved again by eye witness accounts, such as the following, of which they knew much about in terms of their own suffering-

“I started from Cork heading for Skibbereen, and saw little until we came to Clonakilty, where the coach stopped for breakfast; and here, for the first time, the horrors of the poverty became visible, in the vast numbers of famished poor, nearly dead or dying, who flocked around the coach to beg alms. Among them, was a woman carrying in her arms the corpse of a fine child, and making the most distressing appeal to the passengers for aid to enable her to purchase a coffin to bury her dear little baby.”


By Barry Clifford