Irish dig deep to support virus-hit native Americans, repaying 150-year-old debt

David Millward
·1 min read
People line up to get tested for the coronavirus in Monument Valley - Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP
People line up to get tested for the coronavirus in Monument Valley - Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP

Donations to native American tribes who have been badly hit by the coronavirus crisis are flooding in from Ireland as they repay a debt dating back to the 19th-century famine.

At least 41 people have fallen victim to Covid-19 in the Navajo nation, with the spike in cases partly attributed to a water crisis. An estimated 40 percent of the Navajo do not have running water at home, and a drought in the south-west has exacerbated the difficulties.  

As the crisis intensified, the Navajo and Hopi families set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise cash to pay for bottled water.

Already more than $1.3 million has been raised with donations flooding in from Ireland. The generosity dates back to a gesture made in March 1847 when the Choctaw Tribe, which was gradually re-establishing itself in Oklahoma having been ousted from its ancestral lands in Mississippi, heard news of the Irish Famine across the Atlantic.

Meeting in a building in Skullyville, Oklahoma, the Choctaw were asked to dig deep for people thousands of miles away they had never met. They did, and donations poured in.

Now, 173 years later, the gesture has been repaid with donors from Ireland opening their wallets to help.

"The Choctaw and Navajo First Nation people helped the Irish during the Great Famine, despite their own suffering," wrote Michael Corkery, who donated $200.

"When I learned about it, I never forgot it; they know all people are the same in the end, and showed such decency and humanity. It's history now, but we are still grateful. Thank you!"