When famine ravaged Ireland after the potato crop failed in the 1840s, the native American tribe the Choctaw Nation didn’t hesitate to do all they could to help.
They rallied together a raised $170 to send the Irish relief fund of America. That would be the equivalent of €68,500 today.
It was a fantastic gesture made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Choctaw were still recovering from a devastating ordeal of their own 16 years earlier, when they were forced from their homelands in what is now known as Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
The American government took the land from them, and the Choctaw were forced to march the 500 miles north to Oklahoma to the land the government had designated to them.
The march is known as the Trail of Tears. More than half of the 21,000 members of the Choctaw tribe perished on the journey from starvation and exhaustion.
Now, more than a 170 years later, the Irish have rallied to help the people of the Navajo Nation who have had 70 deaths linked to COVID-19 across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to provide food, water and other essential supplies for families in the territory. It has raised more than $1.5m – a fantastic effort with the organisers singling out Irish people for praise following their fantastic support.
Team Member Vanessa Tulley wrote: “Several of our recent donations for our GoFundMe campaign have been inspired by the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland which started in 1845.
“During this difficult time, in 1847, the Choctaw Nation provided $170 of relief aid to the Irish to help them (today that is the equivalent of $5,000). Not long before the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland, 60,000 Native Americans, including the Choctaw people, had suffered through the experience of the Trail of Tears. The death of many people on the Trail of Tears sparked empathy for the Irish people in their time of need. Thus, the Choctaw extended $170 of relief aid.
“173 years later to today, the favor is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis. A message from Irish donor, Pat Hayes, sent from Ireland across the ocean: “From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship.
“The heartache is real. We have lost so many of our sacred Navajo elders and youth to COVID-19. It is truly devastating. And a dark time in history for our Nation. In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world. 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.
In 1847 the Choctaw Nation, fresh off the Trail of Tears, heard of the Irish Famine and sent every cent they could.
Today, their covid-19 appeal is peppered with message after message of gratitude and fellowship from Irish donors.
They didn’t forget us. We won’t forget them. https://t.co/X99x6fY1Zp
— Maria Farrell (@mariafarrell) May 4, 2020
Pat Hayes, a donor from Ireland, said: “From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship.”
It’s not the first time that the Irish have been praised for their generosity.