Document Type

Research Project

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Faculty Sponsor

Kendra Smith-Howard




In 1847, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma donated $173 dollars to an Irish Potato Famine relief fund during the potato blight, which, intersecting with an era of British oppression, resulted in about 1 million Irish dying of starvation and other hunger-related diseases. Only 15 years before, the Choctaw had been forced to relocate 500 miles, by foot, along the Trail of Tears, starting in their ancestral homeland in Mississippi and ending in what is now called Oklahoma. It is estimated that they lost about ⅓ of their population along this journey. In this thesis, I explore why a nation not at all positioned to act philanthropically gave to another suffering nation, despite being in the throes of rebuilding and recovering their own. Deviating from prior scholarship, I use the significance of the founding of Choctaw and Cherokee-run newspapers at the time of the gift, combined with the Choctaw concept of ima—to give—to better understand this act. It was not simply one of political protest or resistance against global colonial oppression, although both of those motivations were relevant. Rather, it was a complex act of cultural preservation that fit into a larger movement to keep Choctaw culture and values alive during an era of deliberate erasure, oppression, and genocide

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gaffney, reflective essay.pdf (55 kB)
Gaffney Reflective Essay

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Gaffney Bibliography

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