Update: Since this article was published two days ago, the GoFundMe total has risen from $1.8 to more than $3 million.
The Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation in the southwestern U.S. have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. With a third of the population having no running water, proper virus-avoiding hygiene is nearly impossible. Access to groceries is limited, and the community has a high number of elderly and individuals with health conditions that put them at higher risk of complications from the virus.
A GoFundMe fundraiser was organized on behalf of the Rural Utah Project Education Fund to raise money for groceries, water, health supplies, and other necessary items in these Native communities. And this week, they have received a huge influx of donations from a seemingly unlikely source—Ireland.
If you're wondering what would prompt people on an island across the Atlantic to send money to a specific community in the U.S., the answer is simple. Gratitude.
In 1847, Native American tribes were struggling to get established after being forced to relocate from their homelands during the cruel and shameful Trail of Tears. The tribes had suffered greatly and had very little. But when the Choctaw nation heard about the suffering of the Irish people during the potato famine, they pulled together a donation of $170—around $5000 in today's dollars—to send to Ireland.
That collective act of sacrificial generosity was not forgotten. And now people in Ireland are repaying that gift many times over in a beautiful expression of historic human connectedness.
The GoFundMe currently sits at more than $1.8 million of a $2 million goal, thanks in no small part to a flood of donations from Ireland. And as the donations of $10, $20, $30 keep rolling in, Irish people are leaving lovely messages of gratitude, solidarity, and hope along with them:
"Ireland remembers the Navajo kindness in her hour of need."
"In remembrance of the kindness shown to my country by your fellow native Americans, the Choctaw people, during a time of dire need. Gach rath oraibh uilig." [Translation: "Best of luck to you all."]
"I donated because when you had nothing, you gave something to help Ireland."
"Yá'át'ééh from Ireland. The Native American donation all those years ago was never forgotten. There have been songs written about your generosity. I am glad to be able to return the favour in some small part. Ahóá!"
Vanessa Tulley, one of the fundraiser organizers, acknowledged the outpouring of love and money coming from Ireland in an update:
"Several of our recent donations for our GoFundMe campaign have been inspired by the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland which started in 1845.
During this difficult time, in 1847, the Choctaw Nation provided $170 of relief aid to the Irish to help them (today that is the equivalent of $5,000). Not long before the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland, 60,000 Native Americans, including the Choctaw people, had suffered through the experience of the Trail of Tears. The death of many people on the Trail of Tears sparked empathy for the Irish people in their time of need. Thus, the Choctaw extended $170 of relief aid.
173 years later to today, the favor is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis. A message from Irish donor, Pat Hayes, sent from Ireland across the ocean: "From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship."
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.Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us."
Absolutely beautiful. Humanity wins the day once again.
If you'd like to donate to help the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation in their COVID-19 fight, you can find the GoFundMe here.
Correction: This post has been updated to clarify that the 1847 donation came from the Choctaw Nation during the Trail of Tears. The Navajo tribe were forcibly relocated from their lands during "The Long Walk" of 1864.
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