My Irish-American grandmother spent much of her childhood raised by her grandfather who in all likelihood told her stories of his grandfather who migrated as a child from Belfast to Charleston 240 years ago. Knowing these connections through oral, written, and photographic documentation, in a sense, enables me to surmount distances in time and place in a way that simple facts and figures cannot.

Likewise, I suppose, my grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather was able to connect through language, stories, and memories to a time and place 160 years prior to his migration when our mutual ancestors last led the indigenous Irish in unified rebellion against the English Crown.

Were he to have remained within the cultural and geographic context of his tribal homeland, of course, these connections — as they are with long-established original nations — would have been more rich and tangible aspects of his identity, but the fact that we can still appreciate our particular heritage despite our diaspora allows us to in some ways begin to comprehend the strength and consciousness of the indigenous peoples he met in his travels in the Carolinas. Their endurance today might still have something to tell us about relationships we’ve forgotten but need now more than ever.

[ Ireland’s History in Maps ]


~ by Jay Taber on July 8, 2007.

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