Irish donate money to Native Americans fighting coronavirus outbreak to help repay old favor

Irish people have been donating money to a fundraiser aimed at providing relief to the Native American community as it grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic to repay assistance the Choctaw Nation gave to those who were struggling during the Great Famine in Ireland over a century ago.

According to The New York Times, scores of Irish people have donated to a fundraiser set up to help the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation, citing inspiration from a gesture the Choctaw Nation made to the Irish community in 1847, just years after the Trail of Tears, when the tribe donated $170 in relief, which is roughly worth $5,000 now, to those impacted by the Great Famine. 

On the GoFundMe page set up for the fundraiser, which has raised more than $1.9 million so far, donors from Ireland left messages noting the favor from the Choctaw Nation as reason behind their donation.

ADVERTISEMENT

“From Ireland,” one donor, Pat Hayes, wrote in a message accompanying her donation, “170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship.” 

Another donor, Kris Marsden, wrote that he donated “because of the generosity shown to the Irish people by the Choctaw Nation.”

“The English oppressors and the ruling elite in Ireland were indifferent to the millions of starving Irish people during the great famine in Ireland,” he continued. “Yet, the Native Americans who were also subjected to extreme poverty and privation donated to people who were thousands of miles away and had probably never heard of the Choctaw.” 

“Years ago, your ancestors aided mine in their time of need,” Maura McManus wrote. “Hopefully this, in some small way, helps you the way your ancestors helped us.” 

“It is our chance, the Irish people, to repay the kindness sent to us in our troubled times,” another donor, Mark Connors, said in his message accompanying his donation. “I thank your people on behalf of Ireland. I only wish I had more to give.”

Cassandra Begay, who serves as communications director for the fundraiser, told The Times that the charity drive appeared to pick up traction in Ireland by way of social media.

ADVERTISEMENT

She also said a bulk of the roughly $500,000 that has been added to the fundraiser in the past two days was given by Irish donors.

“The Choctaw ancestors planted that seed a long time ago, based off the same fundamental belief of helping someone else,” she told the paper. “It is a dark time for us. The support from Ireland, another country, is phenomenal."

The charitable effort comes at a time hospital and clinics in a number of Native American communities are struggling to handle a rise in coronavirus cases due to a shortage in staff and funding amid the pandemic.