In 1847, two cultures from different parts of the world proved that empathy extends across borders. At the height of the Great Famine, Ireland's people faced death and displacement but received aid from an unlikely source, the Choctaw Nation in the United States.
To honour their generosity, sculptor Alex Pentek and officials in the town of Midleton, Ireland, erected a stainless steel statue made of nine eagle feathers. Called Kindred Spirits, the statue represents a bowl of food for the hungry.
“This monument represents this time of great instability but it also represents this great moment of compassion, strength and unity,” says sculptor Alex Pentek.
What’s remarkable about the Choctaw donation is the fact that they themselves were still recovering from injustice. A couple of years before they had made the donation, the US government had forcibly removed the Choctaw from their historic lands and moved them to designated parts of south-east Oklahoma. In what became known as the Trail of Tears, thousands of displaced Choctaw walked vast distances without their possessions, resulting in the deaths of thousands due to hunger, cold and disease.
When the statue was unveiled Choctaw’s Chief Gary Batton said, “Your story is our story. We didn’t have any income. This was money pulled from our pockets. We had gone through the biggest tragedy that we could endure, and saw what was happening in Ireland and just felt compelled to help.”
The feathers are both strong and fragile. They serve as a sign of the 170-year bond shared by the two nations.