The Irish are sending money to a Native American community seriously affected by the coronavirus, to make good on a 173-year-old favor.
A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Navajo and Hopi families has attracted donations from many Irish people seeking to show gratitude for the help they received from the Choctaw Nation in 1847, during the “Great Hunger” that devastated Ireland in the mid-1800s.
In 1847, the Choctaw Nation sent relief money that amounts to $5,000 converted to today’s dollars during the famine.
“173 years later, today, the favor is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis,” the organizers of the GoFundMe write. “
“From an Irish brother to our native American brothers,” writes donor James Fallon on the campaign page. “Karma always comes back around.”
According to the GoFundMe page, Native Americans were moved to donate to Ireland’s cause back in 1847 after experiencing the devastation of the Trail of Tears when they were forced from their land to settle in the west.
Ironically, Native Americans were made aware of the famine in Ireland from an Irishman responsible for overseeing their forced displacement. Despite the massive hardships they’d suffered and their own limited resources, the Choctaw people sent what little they had across the sea to the Irish in need of food and feed for livestock.
And the Irish never forgot it.
Donations have already surpassed the $2 million goal, reaching $2.7 million at the time of writing, and will go toward the purchase of bulk food and medical supplies.
As of May 3, the Navajo Nation has suffered at least 2373 cases of COVID-19 and 73 deaths from the virus, causing the nation to have one of the highest infection rates per capita in the US.
Relief fund organizers have been working with volunteers in Arizona, Southern Utah, and New Mexico since early March. The money has first been distributed to elderly Native Americans, particularly those who are raising grandchildren. Single parents and struggling families will also receive aid in the form of delivered groceries, water, and medical aid.
Beyond their most recent gesture of thanks to the Native Americans, a sculpture of nine eagle feathers called “Kindred Spirits” was erected in Bailick Park in Midlton, County Cork, Ireland to honor the Choctaw people. In 2018, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar established a scholarship program for Choctaw youth to affirm “a sacred bond…which has joined our peoples together for all time.”