‘Kindred Spirits’ Monument, Bailic Park, Midleton, Co Cork

The ‘Kindred Spirits’ Monument of nine eagle feather towering twenty feet into the air, was made by sculptor Alex Pentek.

Aligned in a circle, the look is imperfect, bends and creases in one feather distinguishing it from its next metallic counterpart. The feathers stand strong, made from steel and bound together with more than 20,000 welds. But they also give off a sense of fragility, a feeling that a strong breeze could topple them at any moment.

This monument represents a time of great instability, but it also represents a great moment of compassion, strength and unity. During The Great Hunger, more than a million people perished in Ireland, moved by news of starvation, a group of Choctaws gathered in Scullyville, Oklahoma, to raise a relief fund. Despite their meager resources, they collected $170 and forwarded it to a ‘U.S. famine relief organisation’.

Just 16 years before, in 1831, the Choctaw Indians were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi to what is now known as Oklahoma on a forced march known as the ‘Trail of Tears’. Starving, freezing, many died.

Perhaps their sympathy stemmed from their recognition of the similarities between the experiences of the Irish and Choctaw. Certainly contemporary Choctaw see it that way. They note that both groups were victims of conquest that led to loss of property, forced migration and exile, mass starvation, and cultural suppression (most notably language).

Photo credit: Court Richards

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