Thought you'd appreciate my reposting this here, since it's got a
'legitimate' Celtic link, and is very cross-cultural,
with a global humanitarianism purpose.
>From [log in to unmask] Wed Oct 21 18:39:34 1992
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1992 18:51:50 PDT
Subject: Irish Revisit 'Trail of Tears'
Comments: To: "Moderator of conference bitl.africa" <[log in to unmask]>
To: Multiple recipients of list AFRICA-L <[log in to unmask]>
/* Written 1:58 pm Oct 20, 1992 by emcelroy in cdp:alt.activism */
From: Eugene McElroy <emcelroy>
IRISH REVISIT 'TRAIL OF TEARS'
by Dylan Foley
from the Irish Echo, New York City. Oct. 14-20, 1992
One good deed deserves another. That old adage was very much on the
minds of 22 Irish men and women who recently repaid a debt owed for almost
Recalling an act of compassion as poignant as any in Ireland's tragic
history, the 22 recently finished a 500 mile, four week re-enactment of the
Choctaw Indians' tragic 'Trail of Tears'.
In 1847, the Choctaws, despite facing innumerable hardships of their
own, dug deep into their meager funds to help victims of the Irish famine. To
commemorate that supreme act of charity as well as the historical suffering of
Native Americans, the group walked 500 miles from Oklahoma to Mississippi, the
"Trail of Tears" in reverse. Their goal was and is to raise 71,000 dollars for
famine-stricken Somalia, where recent estimates are that 2,000 to 6,000 people
are starving to death or dying of disease every day.
"It was an extraordinary group and we really jelled," said Don Mullan,
the director of Dublin international aid agency Action from Ireland (AFrI) and
its Great Famine Project. "It was a difficult walk, but we helped each other
through the hard times."
"At times, the walk could be a very lone;y one. For some the terrain was
just miles and miles of highways. We also learned that we could push our bodies
to the limit; we even walked blisters off. But we dwelled on the suffering of
those in the past, and that gave us strength. It was a good a sacred thing."
The group walked an average of 19 miles a day. The walkers ranged in
age from 22 to 70 and included musicians, a lighthouse repairman, a
professional footballer and a Dominican priest. Irish people from seven
counties, north and south, were represented.
The walk was based on the "Trail of Tears", a march forced on the
Choctaw Nation in 1831 after President Andrew Jackson ordered that the tribe
be removed from its ancestral homeland in Mississippi to Oklahoma. More than
half the Choctaw Nation perished.
Sixteen years later, the Choctaws raised 710 dollars from their sparse
resources and sent the money to the Irish starving during the Great Famine.
AFrI's target figure of 71,000 dollars comes from 100 dollars for every 1 dollar
the Choctaw raised in 1847.
Mullan noted that even today, the Choctaw are bitter toward Jackson, a
descendent of Ulster Presbyterian. "The Choctaw aligned themselves with
Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1812 against the British, and then he
almost wiped them out," Mullan said.
On the walk was Richard Moore, a Derry musician and publican who leads
the band The Midnight Hour. Moore is no stranger to hardship. His uncle
Gerard McKinney was shot dead on Bloody Sunday in 1972. Three months later,
Moore was permanently blinded by a British soldier's rubber bullet when he was
on his was home from school. He was ten at the time.
Mullan said that Moore's great sense of humor was integral to keeping the
morale of the group. "I once asked Richard if he felt bitter toward the soldier
who blinded him," Mullan said. "He said, 'He may have taken my sight, but I
refuse to give him my soul'."
Earlier this year, a delegation of Choctaws attended a commemoration
ceremony in Dublin marking their ancestors' donation. President Mary Robinson
received them and was made an honorary Choctaw chief, the first woman to
receive the honor. Mullan was also made a chief.
"We've raised about 40,000 in Ireland toward out 71,000 dollars target,"
Mullan said. "We are hoping that the Irish Americans will help us reach our goal
Donations can be sent to the AFrI Great Famine Project/Somalia Fund, c/o
Brother John Driscoll, CFC, President, Iona College, New Rochelle, NY 10801.