Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day with Guest Blogger Stan Hampton

     They say that on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is honorary Irish! So let us all celebrate this day in our own way, whether it's with the wearin' of the green, or, as I am doing, by cooking corned beef and cabbage.

Today I have fellow Muse author, Stan Hampton, who is going to tell us a story about Ireland as it relates to his own heritage.      


            Break out the food and beer, right? Get ready to celebrate, right? Eat, drink, dance, and be merry. Right.

            I enjoy many things Irish including the mythology, music, and dancing, and celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with good food and drink. Yes, I like Riverdance and once even went to Denver with a friend to watch a performance. Someday I hope to visit Ireland with my children and grandchildren.

            And, when I think of the Irish I also think of my tribe, the Choctaws.

            The 1830’s was a turbulent time in American history; the nation was expanding and a number of tribes—collectively called the Five Civilized Tribes—were moved west to make way for pioneers who wanted their land. Just about everyone knows of the Cherokee Trail of Tears during which thousands of men, women, and children died of disease and the winter weather. The Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, and Seminoles made the same trek. They were forced to leave behind their homes and fertile farmland for barren lands beyond the Mississippi River, where they added up the total number of loved ones who never completed the journey.

            Years later, in the 1840’s, when the Nation was still rebuilding, there was a council meeting at Skulleyville in what would someday become eastern Oklahoma.

            Tribal representatives learned of a nation far to the east, across the ocean, in which there was a great famine. Thousands of men, women, and children had died of starvation; thousands more were dying. Their bodies were found along roadsides, in the fields, and in the dark gloom of silent homes. This famine was called “The Great Hunger.”

            Remembering their recent time of trial, the Choctaws gathered what money they could, $710.00, and sent it to relief agencies in Memphis for the Irish people. There was no political rhetoric or political posturing such as we see today—it was simply an act of generosity from one people to another. It was a humane act without “conditional strings” that the Irish people never forgot.

            Every year there are famine memorial walks in Ireland. Choctaw men, women, and children have joined the Irish on such walks. In the American southeast, there are few Trail of Tears memorial walks, but Irish men, women, and children have joined the Choctaws on such walks. In 1995, the then-President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, visited the Choctaw capitol to say, “Thank you.”

            As reported by the Choctaw Nation newspaper, the Bishinik, Robinson described the basis for this historical connection: “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.”

            There is a plaque on Dublin’s Mansion House, the official residence of Dublin’s mayor, that commemorates the gift: “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.” (O’Donnell)

            In this day and age, I believe we can use more such acts of “humanity.” There are many who try, but in a world rampant with greed, political maneuvering, and “me first,” such an uphill battle can seem hopeless. But thank God that at least there are those who try on behalf of others.

Bishinik, The Official Publication of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, June 1995. “President of Ireland Mary Robinson Addresses the Choctaw People.” https://pantherfile.uw/edu/michael/www/choctaw/robinson.html

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “Choctaws helped starving Irish in 1847 – this act shaped tribal culture.”

DeRosier, Arthur H., Jr. “The Removal of the Choctaw Indians.”

Fitzpatrick, Marie-Louise. “The Long March: The Choctaw’s Gift to Irish Famine Relief.”

Mairead. “The Choctaw Nation’s Link To The People of Ireland.” November 11, 2011.

The National Museum of the American Indian. “Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the National Museum of the American Indian: A Gift from the Choctaw Nation.” March 17, 2011.

Ward, Mike. “Irish Repay Choctaw Famine Gift: March Traces Trail of Tears in Trek for Somalian Relief.” American-Stateman Capitol Staff, 1992.

O’Donnell, Edward T. Dr. “Irish Famine – The Choctaw Send Aid.” Irish-American World Newsletter, CelticClothing.

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. “The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849.”

Thanks for stopping by, Stan, and for sharing that bit of history.

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie


  1. Great story! Thanks for posting, Stan, and for hosting, Julie.

  2. Beautiful post, Stan. I have tears my eyes. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. Stan - Thank you for sharing this story, especially on St. Patrick's Day, and thank you to Julie for publishing it on her blog. Sometimes St. Patrick's Day is associated only with eating, drinking and being merry, rather than meaningful stories emphasizing deep connections between America and Ireland. I pray this simple act of generosity from one people to another will always be a foundation for continued links between the Choctaw Nation and the people of Ireland.

  4. Hey hey hey!

    I finally found my ancient LiveJournal stuff, and now I can respond on many blogs! Rhea, Margaret, and Irish American Mom, thanks for visiting, and thanks for your kind comments. By the way, Irish American Mom is not a fellow writer, but she hosted a guest post I wrote about The Celtic Cross. It is at
    Her website is also very nice.

    Anyway, thanks for visiting!