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Choctaw Nation, Ireland bond on display at Olympics

Ian Burson with athletes
Posted at 5:14 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 19:31:06-05

BEIJING, China. — After the Choctaw tribe arrived in what is now Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, they learned of a potato famine in Ireland.

The tribe collected money, then sent it overseas to help the Irish people.

The kind gesture created a bond that is still evident today — now on display at the Olympics.

"To be a part of the Choctaw and here, with Ireland, two groups of people that have suffered greatly, that have been driven out of their homelands and colonized more or less. And have lent all of branches to each other in great times of need, even when themselves are in great times of need, It's amazing," says Choctaw tribe member Ian Burson.

Burson is coaching two Irish athletes, snowboarder Seamus O'Connor and skier Brendan Newby.

Burson became their coach while working with half-pipe athletes in Utah.

"You kind of stick with athletes, and you get to a certain point where you're just building, building, and building, and then they get good results. Then, they make the world cups and so then you kind of move up with them."

Burson says he's thankful for his Choctaw heritage and the support of his tribe.

"Everywhere I go I'm always thinking about the first people that were there, and how they were able to do what they did there — grow, thrive and survive... and build community.

Burson also says he is humbled, yet proud to be coaching at the Winter Olympics.

"I'm very, very proud to be a part of this kind of Renaissance of the Native peoples and being able to kind of take the narrative back, and show that we have a voice, that we aren't history, that we're still here that we are a part of this nation," he says.

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