Choctaw “Kindred Spirits” graduate from Irish university

NationalEducationCommunity CollegiateIndigenous
Collaborator: Rachael Schuit
Published: 04/27/2024, 3:05 PM
Edited: 05/09/2024, 9:07 PM

Photo Courtesy: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

(NATIONAL) Statues, cultural festivals, and education. The ways the bond between the Choctaw Nation and the Republic of Ireland are celebrated have blossomed year after year since the Nation’s gift back in 1847. 

The most recent? Two Choctaw students graduating from the University College Cork through the Choctaw-Ireland Scholarship Programme

The graduation of Skylee Glass and Aurianna Jewell Joines is a celebration not only of their academic achievements, but the “Kindred Spirits” bond between two nations that began during the Great Potato famine. 

Glass received a Masters in Applied Psychology and Jewell Joines received a Masters in Digital Arts and Humanities this spring.

"It has allowed me to expand my worldview and meet the best people by attending UCC,” Glass told The Irish Independent. “I was challenged, encouraged, and empowered while obtaining my degree. I plan to continue my education and pursue a PhD in the hopes to one day open my own mental health care organisation that serves underprivileged individuals because mental health care is not a privilege, it is a basic human right.”

Jewell Joines told the paper, “This scholarship encourages both personal and professional growth, travelling and being immersed in culture, and being transformed in your way of thinking. I was challenged but encouraged through my work at UCC and my time there was a gift that I will reflect on throughout my life."

During the Great Hunger, the Choctaw Nation sent roughly $170 to the starving Irish to help them. This gift meant even more, knowing it came during a time when the Choctaw were still recovering from their forced removal from their ancestral homelands to what is now Oklahoma.

The power of that gift has only strengthened over the years. 

The monument Kindred Spirits stands in Cork County, Ireland, as a permanent reminder, installed in Bailick Park in 2015. 

The sculpture The Gift, created by sculptor Brendan Thorpe O’Neill now lives at the Choctaw Cultural Center in Durant. 

And a children’s book Kindred Spirits: Shilombish Ittibachvffa, written by Leslie Stahl Widener, was also recently published which details the bond between the Choctaw and Irish peoples. 

On March 16th, Sandy Vigil, the Director of Education for the Choctaw Cultural Center, helped organize the Nation’s first Choctaw-Irish Friendship Fest.

Vigil, who is both Choctaw and Irish, said when someone from Ireland finds out you’re Choctaw, it's instant love. 

“It's like you have kin all over the world,” Vigil said. “And there's more than 4,000 miles crossing the Atlantic Ocean to get to them, yet it's like we're neighbors and you know we just expect this friendship to grow and grow over the years.” 

“There are so many beautiful stories where we help the Irish, the Irish in turn help someone else. It just goes back and forth constantly and still does. Our Chahta Foundation regularly gets donations from people from Ireland."


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