Choctaw Waylon White Deer leads Famine 1848 Walk in Ballingarry

Kilkenny People Reporter

Reporter:

Kilkenny People Reporter

Famine 1848 Walk in Ballingarry

Anthony Ivors of The Commons, Walk Leader Waylon White Deer, and Veronica Ivors

This year's Famine 1848 Walk in Ballingarry attracted one of the largest attendances ever with Irish and international visitors.                         

The Walk was led by Waylon White Deer of the Choctaw First Nation in the United States to honour an extraordinary act of generosity by the Choctaws to the starving Irish during the Famine.

The Walk commemorates all those who suffered and died during the Great Famine and the 1848 Rising which took place during the Famine in Ballingarry. The Walk also bears witness to contemporary famines in the Third World.

The determination of the walkers on the Walk was striking. There had been heavy rain right up to the start of the Walk yet this did not put off the large attendance. Neither did a heavy shower of hailstones deter the walkers as they left the 1848 monument in The Commons village for the Famine Warhouse. Indeed for a moment as walkers took refuge from the hailstones  the very elements hinted at the misery endured by the Irish during the Famine.

The national heritage site, Famine Warhouse 1848 was the location  of the state national famine commemoration led by An Taoiseach last September. On reaching their destination, Walk Leader Waylon White Deer made a moving address. He spoke of the similarities between the experiences of the Irish and the Choctaws. The Choctaw tribe owned vast territories in the US but the government pushed them 600 miles to the west. They lost 25% of their population when they were forced to embark on this 'Trail of Tears' in the dead of winter.

Walkers after completing the Walk to the Famine Warhouse

Walkers after completing the Walk to the Famine Warhouse

Mr White Deer stated that the mass evictions of the Famine years paralleled the 'Trail of Tears' and the experiences of contemporary refugees. He called for a moment of silence to remember those who died during the Famine and those who fell at the Famine Warhouse.                                   

This year is the 170th anniversary of the Famine Rising of 1848 and Mr White Deer noted the coincidence that it was 170 dollars which the Choctaws raised from their own scarce resources as a donation to be sent to the starving Irish.  He commented that 'The Irish-Choctaw famine link transcends both the Irish and Choctaw peoples and speaks to a common humanity. This is how we regard one another when we are following our better angels. In its telling, this story of how one poor dispossessed people reached out in a remarkable moment to another poor, dispossessed people, becomes timeless.'                                                 

The organisers of the event, the voluntary Ballingarry 1848 Society, are endeavouring to have Famine Warhouse 1848 developed fully as a significant educational, heritage and tourist attraction mid-way between the Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny City. 

The Society called on the government to make good its long made promise to renovate the final out-building as an Education Room in honour of the famine dead.                                                           

At the conclusion, the local band, the Mangled Badgers played the national anthem, and refreshments  were served to all in the courtyard. Mr White Deer commented that 'the graciousness of the people who took part in the Walk will long stay with me'.