Magazine article The Nation

Sodality of Tears

Magazine article The Nation

Sodality of Tears

Article excerpt

Here in Ireland this late spring, on the last Saturday in May, Chief Hollis Roberts of the Choctaw Nation led a thousand people on a march along the Trail of Tears, where 600 men, women and children died on a trek across the Mayo mountains in search of food in 1849.

The Choctaw know all about such dark journeys On their own Trail of Tears in 1831 they were deported from southern Mississippi to Oklahoma. Through a forced march, 500 miles in the dead of winter, some 14,000 Choctaws perished. In 1847, in the frontier town of Skullyville, Oklahoma, the Choctaw heard of the famine devastating Ireland. They raised $710, an immense sum for people themselves almost destitute, and sent it across a continent and an ocean.

The 1990 march was organized by the group Action from Ireland, which invited Chief Roberts to lead the "famine walk" from Doolough to Louisburgh. The walk, said the group's statement, "symbolizes the continued suffering of millions of human beings on our planet today, who die of hunger and hunger-related diseases, caused by the same injustice and human rights violations which crushed so many Irish and American Indians in the last century."

It was eerie to turn from this moving episode of international solidarity to stories of Soviet "radicals" cursing Gorbachev, himself mostly persuaded by their arguments, for being too slow in plunging the Soviet Union into the caldron of the free market. The Irish famine of 1845-49 was one of the most determined tests of free-market discipline in human history. …

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