Ireland Reaches Out to Help Navajo Nation

Donors want to repay Native American generosity in 1847
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2020 9:07 AM CDT
Irish Repay an 1847 Native American Favor
Vehicles line up for COVID-19 testing outside of the Monument Valley Health Center in Oljato-Monument Valley, San Juan County, on Friday, April 17, 2020.   (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

At the height of the Great Famine in Ireland, help arrived from an unexpected source: Members of the Choctaw Nation raised $170, the equivalent of more than $5,000 in today's money, for famine relief in 1847, despite being impoverished and dispossessed by the "Trail of Tears" forced relocations. Now, 173 years later, the Irish are repaying the favor by helping Native American tribes hit hard by the pandemic, reports Time. A GoFundMe fundraiser to supply food and clean water to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation has raised almost $2 million, and organizers say many of the 34,000 donors are Irish. Issues including overcrowded housing and a shortage of health care facilities have made Native American communities especially at risk from the pandemic, reports CBS.

"I’d already known what the Choctaw did in the famine, so short a time after they’d been through the Trail of Tears,” Cork resident Sean Callahan tells the New York Times. "It always struck me for its kindness and generosity and I see that too in the Irish people. It seemed the right time to try and pay it back in kind." In Ireland, a sculpture of eagle feathers was erected in 2017 to commemorate the Choctaws' generosity. Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, says the tribe was " gratified—and perhaps not at all surprised—to learn of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi Nations." (Read more Navajo stories.)

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