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Irish Fest – Cultural IQ

Seattle Center Festal:  Irish Festival comes to Seattle Center this weekend, March 15-16, and features non-stop Irish music, singing and dancing, along with short films, lectures and Irish and Celtic products. Festival-goers may take in genealogy and Irish language workshops, cultural exhibits and more. Family-oriented activities include performances by amazing Irish musicians along with champion Irish step dancers from around the Pacific Northwest. Children are invited to enter the “Smilingest Irish Eyes Contest,” the “Most Irish-Looking Face Contest” and other activities in the Children’s Activities Center.

Artistic Director for the Festal series, Steve Sneed, has written a “Cultural IQ” about a fascinating connection between the Irish and the Choctaw Indians:

This is one of my favorite Cultural IQ stories. I first heard this story when I found out the Irish Festival was looking for a Grand Marshall for the Irish parade. They were considering a Native American Man. I was confused. Why a Native American man for an Irish parade? They said , “Well, haven’t you heard of the great potato famine in Ireland?” Yes, why? “Well, did you know that the Choctaw Indians donated money to help the Irish in 1847.” What! You mean to tell me, after the great trail of tears when the Choctaw nation was moved from their lands to reservation land in Oklahoma, they were able to have compassion on the Irish, in Ireland, who were starving and take donations for a total of $710.00 (todays value, a lot of money!) and send it to Ireland?

Nearly 150 years after the Great Potato Famine, a group of Irish people retraced the “Trail of Tears” walking from Oklahoma to Mississippi to repay the longstanding debt to the Choctaw Indian tribe. The Irish returned the favor, by publicizing the generosity of the Choctaw and by raising money for yet another famine relief effort — this one in Somalia, an East African nation racked with starvation.

Eight people from Ireland began the 500-mile trek from Broken Bow, Okla., to Nanih Waiya, Miss. — retracing, in reverse, the government-forced relocation of the tribe in 1831 from its homeland to what was then Indian Territory wilderness. Tens of thousands were moved. Nearly half died.

In 1847, midway through the Irish famine, a group of Choctaws collected $710 and sent it to help starving Irish men, women and children.

It had been just 16 years since the Choctaw people had experienced the trail of Tears, and they had faced starvation . . . . It was an amazing gesture. By today’s standards, it might be a million dollars. It illustrates how we are all one people bound together by circumstances we can all relate to.

Enhance your Cultural IQ and share with Family and Friends! See the video of  Irish Dancers