Irish-American woman donates water tank to Navajo Nation to repay gift given to her Irish immigrant grandparents

Irish-American woman donates water tank to Navajo Nation to repay gift given to her Irish immigrant grandparents

AN IRISH-AMERICAN woman has found a way to say thank you to the Native Americans of the Navajo Nation who once came to the rescue of her Irish ancestors in their time of need. 

Claudia Morris, from Colorado, was inspired to help after learning about the Navajo Nation’s current plight when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. 

The Indian reservation recently surpassed New York City to register the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the US and help is desperately needed. 

According to the charity Compassionate Colorado, as much as 40% of the Navajo Nation’s population has no access to running water - making the necessary regular handwashing needed to combat the spread of the virus a real difficulty.

On top of that, around 30% are living in poverty. 

Eager to provide some much-needed support, Morris reached out with the generation donation of a water tank and trailer. 

It was a donation born out of her Irish roots and desire to repay a gift given to her immigrant great grandparents by the people of the Choctaw Nation back in 1847. 

Back then, Ireland was in the grip of 'the great hunger'. 

Native Americans too were struggling to rebuild their lives after suffering through the Trail of Tears.  

Yet, incredibly, despite their own suffering, the Choctaw Nation tribe raised and sent $170 (an estimated $5,000 today) to Ireland in relief aid. 

It’s a debt the Irish have not forgotten during these testing times with donations flooding in to the Navajo Nation from those with Irish ancestry eager to help. 

Speaking to Irish Central, Morris, who has roots in Co Galway and Co Mayo, explained how she wouldn’t be where she is today without the Choctaw Nation’s gift which helped pave the way for her second great grandfather John Doherty immigrated from Claremorris in Co Mayo to the US aboard the Ship Senator in 1848. 

“I wouldn’t exist, none of my family wouldn’t have existed, without that charitable gift from the Choctaw,” Morris said.

“It’s how we’re all connected. The Dohertys benefited, it kept him [John Doherty] alive to get him on the ship. That we all survived is a miracle.” 

“We are all connected,” Morris added. 

“They [the Navajo] have no infrastructure for water, for power, or for broadband. But water? To wash your hands is so critical to fight the virus.” 

“For me, it was clear what I needed to do - I needed to hook up with these people, these people of many colors, and provide them with the essential water, it’s life for them. Water is life.” 

“I figured okay, how do I get them water? I had this 210-gallon tank for ranching, I had it on a trailer, I hooked the trailer to my truck and met up with them in Pueblo. The most precious gift was the water.” 

Now working as part of Compassionate Colorado, a volunteer organisation set up to gather donations for struggling Native American communities, it would appear Morris is making good on repaying that debt and doing Ireland proud in the process.