Irish donations to a Navajo Nation Native American community battling COVID-19 exceed more than $1m

Irish donations to a Navajo Nation Native American community battling COVID-19 exceed more than $1m

IRISH DONATIONS to the Navajo and Hopi Native American communities during the Covid-19 pandemic have now exceeded more than $1m (£768,000).

The Indian reservation previously surpassed New York City to register the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the US back in May.

While infection rates have decreased in the months since, the need for help remains strong.

According to the charity Compassionate Colorado, as much as 40% of the Navajo Nation and Hopi reservation’s population has no access to running water while around 30% are living in poverty.

When the Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund was first launched to help supply food, PPE and other essential items, organisers initially feared their online appeal had been hacked.

What else could explain the unusual number of donations coming from Ireland?

As it turned out, Ireland owed a debt to this particular Native American community. A debt dating back 173 years. A debt they were intent on repaying in full.

It all went back to 1847 when Ireland was in the grip of 'the great hunger', and Native Americans were struggling to rebuild their lives after suffering through the Trail of Tears.

Despite their own suffering the immense loss they had experienced, the Choctaw Nation tribe raised and sent $170 (an estimated $5,000 today) to Ireland in relief aid.

Today, a monument stands in County Cork as a mark of respect, gratitude and solidarity with those that gave so much.

Now in 2020, in their hour of need the Irish have returned the favour with donations and messages of support for their Native American friends.

Speaking to Sky News, Cassandra Begay, deputy director of the Relief Fund, said they had been blown away by the response.

"We started looking into it and we started seeing messages, very sweet messages,” she said.

"That's when I learned about the Choctaw Nation and their generous gift that they gave to Ireland during the potato famine and it touched our hearts."

The online appeal has raised nearly nearly $6m (£4.6m) in total, with close to 27,000 Irish people donating online and by post.

It amounts to some $1m in support and an incredible act of kindness – one that will live on in much the same way the Choctaw Nation’s gift did all those years ago.

"We'll tell this story to our children and our children's children,” Ms Begay said.

“We'll never forget the kindness of the Irish."