CHOCTAW NATION CHIEF – DON’T GIVE UP FIGHT FOR CULTURE AND IDENTITY
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Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma encouraged Irish Travellers to continue the fight to progress and move forward while keeping culture and tradition alive – on a visit to Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre today.
“It’s important we remain who we are as indigenous people,” said Chief Batton who said the biggest challenge facing the Choctaw Nation is keeping the culture and tradition alive.
Martin Collins, Pavee Point Director remarked on the many similarities between the Choctaw experience and the experiences of Irish Travellers at a cultural exchange that was co-organised by the US Embassy in Ireland .
“Racism and discrimination led to the Choctaw struggle for equality, human rights, access to health services, education and recognition of cultural identity,” he said.
“Irish Travellers also struggle today for the same objectives. However, the story of our experiences of racism and discrimination have yet to be fully documented,” said Mr. Collins.
Reece Smyth, Chargé d’affaires at the US in Ireland also addressed the group and said there had been too many unfair chapters of pain and discrimination in American history. “America’s strength is its diversity,” he said, “We need diversity, inclusiveness and equality.”
The Nation fund many of its activities through their business initiatives as well as receiving funding from the US Federal Government. The Choctaw Nation also trains its own teachers and delivers classes in the Choctaw language.
Chief Batton, 47th Chief of the Choctaw Nation met with Travellers who displayed some traditional elements of Traveller life such as the shelter tent, cooking in the open air and tinsmithing.
Members of the public also attended the event and took part in a discussion with Chief Batton. Pavee Point has a long history of alliances with indigenous peoples from Mayans of Guatamala to the Torres Strait Islanders of Australia where we try to learn from the experiences of these communities.