Choctaw chief welcomes awarding of UCC scholarship

Native American tribe raised funds for Irish famine relief in 1847


A chief of the Choctaw Nation has welcomed University College Cork’s commitment to fostering Irish-Choctaw relations by awarding a second scholarship to a student from the Native American tribe in recognition of the historic links between the two peoples.

Gary Batton, 47th chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, recalled the historic links between Ireland and the Choctaw nation after the Native American tribe sent $170 dollars to Ireland in 1847 to help those suffering during the Great Famine.

The Choctaws raised the money after learning of the plight of the Irish just over a decade after they experienced their own trauma when they were relocated from the south eastern states of the United States to Oklahoma in a forced migration known as the Trail of Tears.

Mr Batton recalled how earlier this year, Irish people raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water, food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation to help them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When our ancestors heard of the famine and the hardship of the Irish people, they knew it was time to help ... We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine.”

Mr Batton welcomed the news that Ciara O’Donnell, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, has been awarded the Choctaw-Ireland Scholarship which will allow her study for an MA in Film and Screen Media at UCC.

“I want to say Yakoke, Thank You, to the people of Ireland for their commitment to this scholarship and wish the best of luck to Ciara as she embarks on her journey as an ambassador for the Choctaw people,” said Mr Batton.

Ms O’Donnell will have all her tuition fees paid and receive €10,000 in living expenses on the the Choctaw Ireland Scholarship Programme.

“As the daughter of a single mother, I grew up knowing that education is a priority. With this scholarship, I will earn my Master’s degree and create a film about the meaning of being Choctaw as I discover more of my heritage,” she said.

“I am going to take as much out of this experience as possible and make my tribe proud.”

Ambassador of Ireland to the US Dan Mulhall wished Ms O’Donnell well on her scholarship.