Story at a glance
- Many Native American communities are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
- A GoFundMe for Navajo and Hopi Families recently received a number of donations from Ireland.
- Donors referenced the money Native Americans gave Ireland during the Great Famine in the 1840s.
"Go raibh maith agat," wrote Martin Collins, who donated $15 to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund on GoFundMe. In Gaelic, it means "thank you."
Collins was thanking Native Americans for a $170 donation from the Choctaw Nation to the Irish in 1847 during the Great Hunger Famine. The suffering Native Americans had endured during the Trail of Tears was fresh in their minds, and they sought to help the Irish with a donation that is now equivalent to $5,000. Today, a large stainless steel sculpture in County Cork, Ireland, called "Kindred Spirits," memorializes their gift.
“At the time of one our greatest catastrophes here in Ireland, Native Americans reached out, when our closest neighbours left us to die. We can't thank you enough, even centuries later," wrote Kevin Minihane, who donated $150. "The very least we can do is try to ease your own agony in any small way."
More than 1 million people died between 1846 and 1851 as a result of the potato famine. Decades later, the Irish people are returning the favor by donating to a GoFundMe for the Rural Utah Project Education Fund. The fund, started on March 18, raised $1,965,200 by May 5, two-thirds of the way to its $3 million goal. Cassandra Begay, communications director for the fundraiser, told the New York Times that over the past 48 hours, more than $500,000 had been donated, with most of the money coming from Ireland.
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In response, Vanessa Tulley, a member of the Rural Utah Project Education Fund, wrote on May 3, “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.”
Tulley and other members of the fund have been posting updates of volunteer efforts, bringing food and other supplies to Hopi and Navajo families in Arizona. The novel coronavirus has uniquely threatened the Native American community, especially those in rural areas. There have been 2,559 positive cases of COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation alone, according to data from the Navajo Department of Health.
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