DURANT – Governor Mary Fallin today helped welcome Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to Oklahoma, where he visited here with members of the Choctaw Nation who donated money to Irish famine relief in 1847.
While in Oklahoma, Varadkar personally thanked Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton for the contribution made by his ancestors and announced a scholarship program that will allow members of the Choctaw Nation to come to Ireland to study. The prime minister made his comments during an event in which the Choctaw Nation presented traditional cultural and sporting performances.
“I appreciate Prime Minister Varadkar for coming to Oklahoma to thank descendants of the Choctaw Nation for collecting money to assist his forefathers in the mid-1800s during the potato famine,” said Fallin. “His visit demonstrates this unique relationship between the two nations. His arrival just ahead of St. Patrick’s Day helps illustrate the bonds of compassion and strength that unite them.”
On March 23, 1847, members of the Choctaw Nation raised $170 for Irish potato famine relief, an incredible sum at the time worth in the tens of thousands of dollars today.
Members of the Choctaw Nation visited Ireland in June 2017 to join in the unveiling of Kindred Spirits, a monument commemorating the bond between Ireland and the Choctaw Nation. In 1995, Ireland's then-president, Mary Robinson, visited the tribal complex here.
The Choctaw Nation has a history of deprivation themselves. Sixteen years after being forced off their lands in 1831 and forced to make a 500-mile trek to present-day Oklahoma, the Choctaws learned of people starving in Ireland. Having faced hunger and death on their Trail of Tears, tribal members raised money to help provide relief to the Irish people.