During the potato famine over 170 years ago, members of the Choctaw Nation sent $170 to hungry families in Ireland.
Centuries later, Irish people are repaying their kindness with a fundraiser for struggling Native American communities.
In an expression of gratitude for a favour dating back to 1845, Irish citizens are offering support to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation.
These communities are at high risk due to their large population of elderly, diabetic, asthmatic, and cancer-afflicted individuals. A third of Navajo residents don’t even have access to running water.
The fundraiser is led by members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. As of today, $2,823,490 has been raised via GoFundMe.
“The need is so great,” the fundraiser page reads. “Navajo regularly has roughly 50% unemployment (most of the residents are elderly or children; those who can work often leave the Nation to find jobs), and Hopi has roughly 60% unemployment.”
The project aims to provide groceries, water, medical supplies, and other essential items primarily to struggling families, the elderly, and the disabled. Volunteers will be sewing masks for medics and first responders on Navajo and Hopi.
Working alongside the Rural Utah Project, the organisers are funding a social media campaign to encourage social distancing and embrace sterilisation practices in the area.
Back in 1831, the US government forced the relocation of Native American communities. Over a 5,043-mile stretch, the incidents became known as the Trail of Tears. The people of the Choctaw Nation were removed from their ancestral homelands and suffered impoverishment and starvation.
Years later, when they learned of similar circumstances in the Irish potato famine, they extended their gratitude by donating $170, which would be worth over $5000 today.
“I’d already known what the Choctaw did in the famine, so short a time after they’d been through the Trail of Tears,” says Sean Callahan, who donated to the recent campaign.
“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.”