Sometimes a Trail of Tears can lead to Kindness

The Trail of Tears is the name given to the forced relocation of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  The relocation was mostly from the southeastern United States to present day Oklahoma.  The removal included the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.

This forced movement not only dispossessed many Native American nations, it also resulted in thousands of deaths from exposure, disease and starvation. The name, Trail of Tears, originates from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831.

Sixteen years later, in 1847, the Choctaw survivors of the Trail of Tears heard of the Great Famine in Ireland. They heard about the dispossession and starvation that had been going on in Ireland since 1845. Though clearly not wealthy or advantaged themselves, they responded by collecting $710 and sending it to help starving Irish men, women and children.

According to a written account at the time, “Traders, missionaries, and (Indian) agency officials contributed, but the greater part of the money was supplied by the Indians themselves.“(1)

The Choctaw sent the money to Memphis – one of the cities in which the military had gathered them before they set out on the Trail of Tears.  From there it made its way to Irish famine victims.

The astounding actions of the Choctaw are an example of how suffering acquires meaning when it is transmuted into understanding and generosity.


Photograph – Famine Memorial, Dublin, Ireland.


4 comments on “Sometimes a Trail of Tears can lead to Kindness

  1. I think sometimes may be an understatement.

  2. Or – unfortunately – an overstatement as this sort of generous, open-hearted behaviour is not all that common.

    I think it was particularly generous of the Choctaw as Andrew Jackson – President for much of that time and a leading proponent of ‘Indian removal’ – was the son of Irish parents.

    If the Choctaw had operated in a way we’d often still excuse they’d have been glad that the nation that produced Andrew Jackson was suffering. Instead they empathised because they themselves had known so much similar suffering.

    Exemplary really. Thanks for the comment.

  3. ElizOF says:

    I’m happy when stories like this one get into the mainstream… so many years of the other kind of stories have been hurtful. This is a blessing. TY! 🙂

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