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ACIS Logo ACIS Western Regional 2024

Sentiments such as Mary Hagan’s echoed from Ireland all the way to Montana as the first wave of Irish immigrants reached the Treasure State. By 1900, a quarter of Butte’s residents were Irish and most were seeking fortune. Not simply monetary stability, fortune and treasure suggest so much more such as the promise of a new life and the establishment of a discourse community that would nurture the perseverance of heritage and culture—an unbreakable connection to home.

Many who made the journey from Ireland to Montana never returned home. One only need visit St. Patrick’s Cemetery, which is nestled away from the bustle of Butte’s uptown neighborhood to discover their stories. St. Patrick’s Cemetery is roughly 6,750km from Ireland, but looking around at the headstones and Celtic crosses, you are instantly supplanted into the narratives of those who made the move to the rugged mountains of Montana.

Irish emigration to Butte and Montana more broadly, was influenced by many factors, but two intrepid souls in particular lit the symbolic tilley lamp1 inviting the Irish to Montana, Thomas Francis Meagher and Marcus Daly. Meagher for his part was an Irish nationalist and leader of the Young Irelanders during the Rebellion of 1848. Convicted of sedition, Meagher was shipped off to Van Diemen’s Land. He made a harrowing escape, ended up in the United States, and following the civil war he was appointed Montana’s Territorial Secretary of State. Daly was only 15 years old when he left Co Cavan for New York City. Daly eventually landed in Montana and found his fortune in mining. He purchased the Anaconda Mine with financial backing from titans of industry including George Hearst. Daly had a strong desire to support his fellow country people, so he telegraphed to home that any Irishman could have a job in his mine, which inspired a huge wave of emigration.

Montana also captured the imagination of those seeking independence in Ireland. High profile visitors to the Treasure State include Éamon de Valera who made the first of three trips on July 26, 1919. Upon returning to Butte, de Valera declared that returning to the Mining City was “like getting back home.” While in Butte, de Valera impressed upon Montana’s Irish the moral and legal reasons for the establishment of a free and independent Irish republic. Remarkably, both senators from Montana, Murray and Walsh, carried forward de Valera’s vision and they tirelessly advocated for Irish independence on the floor of the US Senate. On June 1, 1917, legendary feminist and pacificist Hanna Sheehy Skeffington disembarked a train in Butte, Montana. A decade prior to her arrival, women of all ranks began to claim leadership positions within myriad of Irish Republican organizations across the state, which led to the formation of the Women’s Protective Union (WPO). The WPO represented female workers statewide and across all industries. As an activist, Sheehy Skeffington was in awe of the radical resistance employed by Irish and Irish American women in Montana. To maintain the strong bond between Ireland and Montana, de Valera chose feminist, social reformer, and activist, Constance Markievicz to visit in the spring of 1922. Markievicz was active in the 1916 Easter Rising and a member of Cumann na mBan. She noted that,” Butte was one of the places that stand out for its reception for they met us at the train station with a band (Pearse Connolly Drum and Fife Corp) and an army…all of Sligo seemed to be there.”

The conference committee invites individual papers, panels, roundtable discussions that engage with the conference theme of community and the environment or any aspect of Irish Studies. Possible focus areas include: cultural, literary, historical, political, socio-economic, music, dance, sport, and visual arts. The University of Montana is the flagship liberal arts university in the Treasure State. Accordingly, we welcome creative presentations and performances such as dramatic readings, musical performances, group dances (not an exhaustive list).

A special edition to this meeting of ACIS West is the Montana Mentoring tables. We will host mentoring sessions on publishing in Irish Studies and professional development (preparing for graduate school, preparing for the job market, navigating the tenure process, etc.) We are open to adding additional tables, so please feel welcome to express a specific interest to the conference planning committee.

Possible topics include:

  • Múineadh, Caomhnú nó Cur Chun Cinn na Gaeilge i Meiriceá / Teaching the Irish language or preserving the Irish language in the U.S.A.
  • Irish in the American West
  • Feminist Practices in Irish Studies
  • Ecocritical and Environmental issues in Irish Studies
  • Revolutionary Ireland
  • Library and Archival Collections & Research Methodologies in Irish Studies
  • Sustainable Approaches to Irish Studies
  • Inclusive Futures in Irish Studies
  • Irish Studies Methodologies, Pedagogies, and Activism

We are calling for proposals that aim to address questions such as (but not limited to):

  • How can Irish Studies encourage coalition building?
  • What does inclusion look like in Irish Studies?
  • How can we foster feminist and antiracist theories, methodologies, pedagogies, and practices within Irish Studies?
  • How can queer methodologies uncover and amplify a more inclusive theirstory within Irish Studies?
  • How can Irish Studies create space for traditionally marginalized and silenced voices to enter the discourse or the conversation?
  • How can Irish Studies encourage transparent, inclusive, and representative histories?
  • How has social media, technology, and AI impacted Irish Studies?

With a tilley lamp in hand, we are delighted to welcome you to Montana to help us celebrate 40 years of ACIS West. The deadline for submissions is June 28, 2024. All conference presenters and attendees must be current paid members of ACIS by the conference date.

Submission Guidelines: Individual papers and panel submissions (3-4 participants) are welcomed, as are proposals for presentations in non-traditional formats such as poetry, monologues, roundtables, discussion groups, or seminars. Abstracts should be 250-300 words in length and should include a brief (100-word) bio of the presenter.

Land and Water Acknowledgement

The 40th Annual Convention of the American Conference for Irish Studies West is being held on the unceded traditional gathering lands of the Salish and Kalispel people. The University of Montana acknowledges that by virtue of the history of settler colonialism it is located in the aboriginal territories of the Séliš, Ksanka, and QÍispé people. For thousands of years the Séliš, Ksanka, and QÍispé people have been and continue to be the stewards of this land. It is with gratefulness and respect that we recognize the contributions, innovations, and contemporary perspectives of these sovereign native nations.  We must honor the path they have always shown us in caring for this place for the generations to come.As scholars, it is our responsibility to understand the history of the places where we live, teach, learn, and gather. As researchers and educators, we have a responsibility to speak the truth about the historical legacies of settler-colonial language and about contemporary settler colonialism within our profession. We invite attendees to join us in making actionable commitments to healing relations through equal and reciprocal alliances with Indigenous, Métis, and Innuit peoples of our profession.

One of the most famous lights in Ireland, the Tilley Lamp, is the light that shines from an upstairs window at Áras an Uachtaráin. Visible from the main road through the Phoenix Park, the light is a symbolic beacon, lighting the way for Irish emigrants and their descendants, welcoming them to their homeland. First placed there by President Mary Robinson, the light builds on an old Irish tradition of placing a light in the window to guide the way of strangers in the night. President Michael D. Higgins decided to continue the tradition, and the light still shines. President Higgins has put the theme of Migration at the heart of his work and many of his speeches, and the events he has hosted or attended focus on issues related to the topics of the Diaspora, Homelessness, Refugees and Solidarity. (


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