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.

Chief Gary Batton speaking at Pavee Point. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

“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.”

Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Ireland, Reece Smyth speaking at the event. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Over 2,000 Choctaw people died in forced migrations ‘The Trail of Tears’ from their traditional lands in Mississippi to Oklahoma between 1831 and 1833.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma negotiated  tribal lands  at a famous treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek and now have their own government and run their own health and education systems.

Senator Padraig Maclochlainn with Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jnr. ©Photo by Derek Speirs
©Photo by Derek Speirs
Choctaw Nation visitors. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

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.

Molly Collins and Missie Collins with Chief Gary Batton. ©Photo by Derek Speirs
Chief Batton samples some bread made in an oven the traditional way. ©Photo by Derek Speirs
Chief Batton receives his saucepan from tinsmith James Collins. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

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.