In 1847, the Choctaw people raised $ 170 to send to people in Ireland who were starving under potato starvation.
The struggles experienced by the Irish were known to the tribe's nation: Only 16 years earlier, the Choctaw people had embarked on the Trail of Tears and lost thousands of their own against hunger and disease.
"From Ireland, 170 years later, favor returns!" a message from a giver reader. "To our Indians and sisters at the moment of trouble."
The Irish have given around half a million, says the organizer
The donations from Ireland appear to have started Irish Times journalists Naomi O & # 39; Leary
shared the Navajo and Hopi collection on Twitter, gathering thousands of likes and retweets.
Native Americans collected huge sums of famine in Ireland at a time when they had very little, "O & # 39; Leary wrote Saturday." It's time for [sic] to come through for them now. "
Ethel Branch, the fundraiser's organizer, estimated on Tuesday that the Irish had donated about half a million dollars to the relief work so far, which goes toward food, water and other necessary supplies for the Navajo and Hopi communities.
The campaign had raised more than two million dollars as of Tuesday night.
"It's very unexpected, but it's just amazing to see the solidarity and see how much people so far away care about our community and have sympathy for what we are experiencing," Branch told CNN.
Navajo Nation has seen more than 2400 confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 70 deaths, the tribe's nation announced Monday
. The Hopi reservation, which is surrounded by the Navajo Nation, have reported
52 positive cases.
The gift was an act of solidarity
In 1845, a fungus destroyed Ireland's potato crop, which the Irish depended on for food. The Irish potato famine
would continue to cause widespread hunger and disease, kill hundreds of thousands of people and have a catastrophic effect on the country.
The news of the Irish potato famine was first reported in US newspapers
later that year. As the famine coverage continued to increase, appeals to the American public declined to provide relief to those in Ireland – and Americans responded by sending funds.
The news finally reached the Choctaw people in 1847, when Major William Armstrong came to Oklahoma for a meeting intended to raise money "for the hungry poor in Ireland," according to historian Turtle Bunbury
. Those gathered at the meeting included missionaries, merchants, and chiefs of the Choctaw Nation.
The Choctaw leaders in the crowd had already experienced their own hardships.
In the 1830s, between 7 p.m. 12500
Choctaw moved forcibly from their ancestral home in Mississippi to Oklahoma, and walked thousands of miles on the Trail of Tears. As much as a quarter of the tribe's population was lost on the journey, and the effect of the move became known long after, according to Choctaw Nation chief Gary Batton.
So when Choctaw heard about the Irish situation, they dug into their own pockets, Batton said.
"We felt their pain," Batton told CNN. "We felt what they were dealing with."
Much of the $ 170 – the equivalent of more than $ 5,000 today – collected at the Oklahoma meeting that day came from the tribe's nation, Bunbury wrote
Irish and Native American solidarity continues
The act of kindness was never forgotten, and solidarity between the Irish and Indians has continued over the years.
In 1992, 22 Irish men and women went the Trail of Tears to raise money for relief from famine in Somalia, according to Bunbury. They raised $ 170,000 – $ 1,000 for every dollar Choctaw gave in 1847. A citizen of Choctaw retaliated by leading a famine trip in Ireland
seven years later.
In 2017, the city became Midleton in Ireland unveiled a sculpture
in memory of Choctaw's gift of 1847. In 2018 the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced a scholarship program
for Choctaw people to study in Ireland while visiting the tribal state of Oklahoma.
The GoFundMe donations are just the latest example of the long-standing relationship. As one Irish donor wrote on the collection page:
"You helped us in our darkest hour. The honor of giving back the friendship. Ireland remembers with thanks."