- Organisers of a GoFundMe raising funds for families in Navajo Nation and Hopi Nation during the coronavirus pandemic told The New York Times that hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations have come from Irish people.
- They say the donations were inspired by a 1847 gift from Choctaw Nation, which gave Irish families $US170 – equivalent to $US5,351 today – to help them get thorough the potato famine.
- The coronavirus pandemic has devastated tribal communities across the US, and Navajo Nation has been hit particularly hard.
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Irish people are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fundraiser helping Native American tribes through the coronavirus pandemic, and many are citing a 173-year-old gift for the reason behind their donations.
Organisers of a GoFundMe raising funds for families in Navajo Nation and Hopi Nation told The New York Times that donations have flooded in from Irish people, inspired by a 1847 gift from Choctaw Nation.
Choctaw Nation sent Irish families $US170 – equivalent to $US5,351 today – in 1847 to help them get thorough the Great Hunger Famine, which started in 1845.
The gift was sent as Choctaw Nation faced its own troubles – the tribe was among 60,000 Native Americans forcibly relocated by the US government in an incident now known as the Trail of Tears, which saw tribes march thousands of miles across the US, leaving thousands of people dead.
Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, told The Times that he was “not at all surprised” to learn “of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi Nations.”
“We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine,” he said. “We hope the Irish, Navajo, and Hopi peoples develop lasting friendships, as we have.”
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated tribal communities across the US. Navajo Nation, which has a population of 356,890 people, has reported 2,559 COVID-19 cases and 79 deaths, making a death rate per capita of 22.13 per 100,000 people – higher than Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Mexico combined. The Navajo Nation completely surrounds the Hopi reservation in Navajo and Coconino counties of Arizona.
Epidemiologists told The Times that Native Americans have a high rate of diabetes, often live in intergenerational homes, and have a scarce amount of running water, which could all factor in to Navajo Nation being hit hard by COVID-19.
Cassandra Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation and co-organiser of the fundraiser, told The Times that she believes the Irish learned of the fundraiser after Naomi O’Leary, a reporter from the Irish Times, tweeted about it on May 2.
Native Americans raised a huge amount in famine relief for Ireland at a time when they had very little. It's time for is to come through for them now. https://t.co/ONl9UXmwdH
— Naomi O'Leary (@NaomiOhReally) May 2, 2020
“The Choctaw ancestors planted that seed a long time ago, based off the same fundamental belief of helping someone else,” Begay said. “It is a dark time for us. The support from Ireland, another country, is phenomenal.”
The GoFundMe page, too, thanks the Irish support in its description. So far, the fundraiser has raised more than $US2.5 million in relief for the tribes.
“In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world,” the page says. “Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness. Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us.”