DURANT, Okla. (KFOR) – A sculpture honoring the relationship between the Choctaw Nation and the people of Ireland will soon be erected on the Choctaw Capitol grounds in Tuskahoma.
“Eternal Heart” combines a Celtic trinity shape intertwined with a heart.
Choctaw Nation member, Samuel Stitt of Spokane Valley, Washington, submitted the winning entry.
“There is no beginning or end to the overall piece – thus, it is eternal,” Stitt said.
The project is funded jointly by the Choctaw Nation and the Government of Ireland.
March marked the 176th anniversary of the Choctaw people mustering a gift of $170 to ease suffering Irish during the potato famine (about $4,900 in 2021 inflation-adjusted dollars).
The gift was even more significant due to the Choctaws having just completed their trek on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.
The 8-foot-tall sculpture’s heart – representing the Choctaw Nation – will face toward Ireland.
“All the elements are symbolic and created with specific references in mind,” Stitt said.
The concrete base for the piece is edged with diamond shapes, a Choctaw symbol of reverence to the diamondback snake.
The sculpture will sit atop a mound, honoring the heritage of mound-building of the Choctaw ancestors as well as the ancient “hill forts” and mounds found in Ireland.
A winding footpath to the art represents the Trail of Tears, with the exact orientation mirroring the arduous route from the Mississippi homelands to Indian Country.
“I want to congratulate Samuel Stitt on being awarded the commission,” said Ireland’s Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin T.D. “Last year, as Taoiseach, and together with Chief Gary Batton, I announced the launch of this new project, which is intended to serve as a permanent legacy in Tuskahoma of the solidarity that exists between our peoples, just like the sculpture in Bailick Park, Midleton in County Cork.”
Another sculpture, “Kindred Spirits,” was unveiled in 2015 in Cork, Ireland, to symbolize the connection and appreciation of the Irish for the Choctaw people.