In 1847, a Native American tribe gave $170, the equivalent of $5,000, to aid the Irish in the Great Famine. Now, more than 170 years later, Ireland is returning the favour by donating generously to the Navajo Nation in their time of crisis due to the coronavirus.
The Navajo Nation is an American Indian territory situated in north-eastern Arizona, south-eastern Utah and north-western New Mexico. The 2016 population estimate was 350,000.
The area has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and reportedly has the third highest infection rate in the United States – after New York and New Jersey.
“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,” Vanessa Tulley, an organizer for the Navajo and Hopi family fundraiser, said.
Navajo Nation disproportionately hard hit
A lack of access to running water for almost a third of residents and crowded living conditions have contributed to the quick spread of the disease.
The Navajo Nation has more confirmed cases per capita of COVID-19 than 48 US states! Navajo has depleted all of her limited resources to battle. Funding to fight is now grassroots fundraising – help if you can: Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund https://t.co/SdK1c5Wxgx
— Aaron Yazzie (@YazzieSays) May 2, 2020
There is also a disproportionately high number of high-risk people – elderly, diabetic, asthmatic, and cancer-afflicted.
To help with relief efforts, a GoFundMe page was created on behalf of the Rural Utah Project Education Fund on March 15.
The Irish open their hearts
And the funds have been pouring in, with total donations as of Sunday 10 May tallying over $3.4 million. A large portion of these donations have come from Ireland.
Native Americans raised a huge amount in famine relief for Ireland at a time when they had very little. It's time for is to come through for them now. https://t.co/ONl9UXmwdH
— Naomi O'Leary (@NaomiOhReally) May 2, 2020
The relationship started in the 1840s, when the Choctaw Nation raised $170 to give to Ireland during the Great Famine. This was after failed potato harvests has resulted in a quarter of the Irish population fleeing the country and the death of at least 1 million.
It has been reported that the Choctaw Nation heard about the famine from an Irish soldier who had been overseeing the forced displacement of Native Americans.
Donal Fallon, a broadcaster and historian from Dublin, said that the support which the Native Americans gave to Ireland had a “strong lasting imprint on the Irish collective memory. What is often overlooked about the Great Hunger is that it represents not only the great humanitarian crisis of the Victorian Age but also the greater humanitarian response.”
Dermot Burke, a donor, wrote on the GoFundMe page: “At Ireland’s time of need during the Great Hunger of the 1840s, Native American people donated to the famine relief effort even though they themselves were still living in hardship. Their generosity will never be forgotten.”
Image Credit: jakobradlgruber