173 years, $170: Why Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus

A favour returned 173 years later. This is why Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus.

Coronavirus has been devastating for people worldwide over the past year, so it is now more than ever that acts of kindness are needed. Returning a favour from almost two centuries ago, here is why Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus.

173 years ago, the Choctaw Nation, a Native American nation occupying portions of southeastern Oklahoma, sent $170 to starving Irish families during the potato famine.

This act of kindness has been remembered by the people of Ireland to this day with a sculpture in County Cork commemorating the generosity of the tribe, who were themselves poor.

A favour returned – a relationship across the world

A favour returned after 173 years.
Credit: Flickr / Al_HikesAZ

A GoFundMe campaign called ‘Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund’ was set up in March 2020 to provide food, water, and other essential supplies for families in the Navajo Nation across Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.

According to the organisers of the fundraiser, which has currently raised more than an astounding $7 million, many of the donations came from Irish donors.

So why have so many Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus?

A historic friendship – helping in a time of need

The Choctaw Nation helped the Irish in their time of need.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

When citing the reason for their donations during the COVID-19 pandemic, many Irish donors claimed they were inspired by the generosity of the Choctaw Nation during Ireland’s Great Famine of the mid-1800s.

In 1847, the Native American tribe donated $170 (equivalent to $5,000 today) to aid the people of Ireland who were worst affected by the effects of the famine.

It is also worth noting that this substantial donation came not long after the United States government subjected the Choctaw Nation, among other Native American tribes, to the horrifying Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears – the forced relocation of thousands

Thanks to their donations during the Trail of Tears, this why Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations imposed on hundreds of Native American tribes by the United States government between 1830 and 1850.

Referred to at the time as the ‘Indian removal’, the Trail of Tears saw the displacements of approximately 100,000 Native Americans.

As a result of this, thousands of Native Americans sadly died from hunger, disease, and exhaustion during forced marches.

This sense of shared suffering and empathy with the Irish hardship during the Great Famine is why the Choctaw Nation sent the generous donation of $170 to assist those worst affected.

An eternal thank you – a historical impact

The Choctaw monument in County Cork.
Credit: geograph.ie / Hywel Williams

To find out why Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus, we read through some of the comments left by those who donated to the ‘Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund’.

One donor wrote, “My pleasure to donate again to this worthy cause. We in Ireland remember your generosity to us.”

While another commented, “From Ireland with love. 200 years of friendship.”

One donor commended the kindness of the Choctaw Nation during Ireland’s ‘darkest days’, expressing gratitude, and returning the favour: “We Irish have very long memories, and we don’t forget who shows kindness and generosity to less fortunate people than ourselves.

“The Native Americans showed more humanity to us in our darkest days than anyone else, and we would like to return the favour in your dark time. The sun will shine on you all again. Slán.”

The impact of the pandemic – a nation in need

This is why Irish people donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus.
Credit: YouTube screenshot / Karney Hatch

The past year has had a devastating impact on thousands of people worldwide, and the Navajo and Hopi are some of the hardest hit.

So far, the relief fund has raised over $7 million, and the team of volunteers have provided over 46,000 households with vital resources of food and water.

Every $100 donated will provide a family of four with two weeks’ worth of food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and for as little as $10, you can help to feed a family of four for an entire day.

The efforts of the relief fund have been the primary relief effort providing assistance to the Navajo and Hopi families. So, if you would like to join the thousands of Irish people who have already donated to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus, you can add a donation to the GoFundMe page here.