Commemorating a selfless act by the Choctaw people of the United States in 1847, a time of great need to the People of Ireland, Kindred Spirits is a stainless steel sculpture located in Balick Park in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland.
Made up of nine 20-foot (6.1 m) tall stainless steel feathers arranged in a bowl shaped circle, Kindred Spirits was created by Alex Pantek in 2015. Pantek’s work was completed at the Sculpture Factory in Cork with assistance from Crawford College of Art and Design students.
1847 was the worst year of the Irish famine and close to one million people were on the verge of starvation. Humanitarian aid came from all corners of the world, but the gift from the Choctaw Nation was something special and it helped form an unlikely bond that has lasted for generations.
In 1847 the Choctaw people were living in a state of extreme poverty. Having been forcefully driven from their ancestral homeland in the Southeastern United States in 1838, they were forced to walk across the country as far as Oklahoma. Thousands of Choctaw died during the 500 mile migration that has since become known as the Trail of Tears.
Despite their own suffering, when the Choctaw learned about the starvation in Ireland they rallied together and raised $170 for famine relief to help the people in whom they saw so much of themselves.
While the $170 may not seem like a lot of money now, it has to be looked at through the lens of history. Because the Choctaw were only 16 years out of forced migration, they did not have jobs or incomes in any real way that would have allowed them to donate more. It was the money they had been saving for their families and their own survival that they so generously gave to the suffering Irish.
The memorial was commissioned by the Midleton Town Council and was officially dedicated in June of 2017. Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., along with 20 more of the Choctaw Nation took part in the event overseen by Seamus McGrath, the County Mayor of Cork.
Kindred Spirits Facts
- The circular bowl shaped design of Kindred Spirits represents the gift of food.
- Each of the nine feathers is unique.
- In 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of Ireland donated more than $2,000,000 to the Choctaw Nation. Many of the donations were for $170, the same amount once donated the opposite direction.
- 1847 has become as “Black 47” because of the Irish famine.
- Former Irish President Mary Robinson is also an honorary Choctaw chief.
- Kindred Spirits is visible from Bailick Road, south of Midleton City Centre.