Irish Repay $170 Favour By Raising Millions For Native American Families
A fundraiser for Native Americans has taken off in Ireland with residents eager to help repay a 173-year-old donation.
A GoFundMe campaign created to raise money for Navajo and Hopi families, who have been hit hard by the coronavirus, has attracted donations from many Irish people.
The Irish donors are hoping to thank Native Americans for helping them during the "Great Hunger" famine that devastated Ireland in the mid-1800s.
Back then the Choctaw Nation provided $170 in relief money (worth about $5,780 today) to the Irish during the famine in 1847.
The Native American donors were said to have been inspired to help others who were suffering after experiencing massive losses during the Trail of Tears, when Native people were forced from their homelands and pushed west.
"173 years later to today, the favour is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis," the organisers of the GoFundMe said.
A message from Irish donor, Pat Hayes read: "From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship."
The fundraising page has been flooded with similar messages.
"We remember the Choctaw generosity during our famine in the 1840s," donor George Salter wrote.
"Thank you for all that your people did to help my people during the great hunger, over the generations your kindness and strength of spirit was not forgotten. Together we will get through this," Sean Farrell wrote.
"Joining the rest of Ireland in supporting you and hoping in a small way we can offer some comfort and friendship in your time of need," donor Malachy Geraghty posted.
The unique relationship between Native American tribes and Ireland during the famine was commemorated in 2017 when a "Kindred Spirits" statue was installed in a park in the small town of Midleton in the county of Cork, Ireland.
So far, the GoFundMe campaign set up on behalf of the Rural Utah Project Education Fund has raised more than $3 million ($AU4.6 million) from 14,400 donors.
Ethel Branch, one of the organisers, gave an update on how the money was being used in the community.
"Last week, through use of your amazing donations, we were able to get $102,393.55 to Navajo and Hopi to provide food and water to Navajo and Hopi elders, immunocompromised, and families with children," she said.
"Through bulk orders, we are able to deliver food baskets that cost about $100 each that are designed to feed an entire household for two weeks so folks can successfully STAY HOME and help FLATTEN THE CURVE in our communities."
Several longstanding issues, including overcrowded housing and inadequate health care, have made Native American communities some of the most at-risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
"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," the organisers said.
"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.
"Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us.
The Great Famine killed more than one million people in Ireland between 1984 and 1849 after a potato blight destroyed crops across the country.