Irish Assist In Memory of Choctaw Support
Updated: May 23, 2020
A fantastic story circulating online is the large number of Irish people (20,000 so far) who have responded to the call by the Choctaw Nation to support their fellow Native Americans who are suffering from the Covid19 Outbreak. Irish people are responding to the request in memory of the financial aid the Choctaw Nation sent to Ireland during the Great Famine of 1845-1851, which killed well in excess of one million Irish people and displaced a further two million. As of today (08.05.20), Irish people have donated nearly $700,000, which is sure to rise further.
The Navajo and Hopi, based in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico have suffered a great deal during the Covid-19 Outbreak, with both young and old sadly succumbing to the disease. As of writing, total donations have surpassed the $3 milllon mark and it is an extremely proud moment for Ireland that so many are prepared to reach out and help others at this difficult time. This particular story has made international headlines and has been featured by the New York Times & CNN.
Ní neart go cur le chéile/There is no strength without unity.
The Choctaw are a Native American people who originally occupied what is now the Southeastern United States (modern-day Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana). Today, the Choctaw Nation is located mostly in Oklahoma. For more on their history, culture and background click here and here
As has been reported, Irish people have been responding in large numbers to the request by the Choctaw Nation for assistance during the Covid19 Outbreak and seem determined to repay a historical debt in the process. In 1847, the Choctaw Nation moved by stories of a tribe in a distant land suffering hunger and hardship donated $170 towards Irish famine relief, the equivalent of $5000 today. They were all too familiar with similar hardship having endured the infamous 'Trail of Tears', which was the forceable relocation of Native Americans from the eastern part of the US to lands west of the Mississipi River, with thousands dying of disease and hunger in the process. The story is well covered by Dee Brown in h 1970 book, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. PBS also made a documentary, which can be viewed here
The connection between Ireland and the Choctaw Nation was rekindled in the 1990s. In 1992, 22 Irishmen and women walked the Trail of Tears to raise money for famine relief efforts in Somalia. They raised $170,000 -- $1,000 for each dollar the Choctaw gave in 1847. A Choctaw citizen reciprocated by leading a famine walk in Ireland seven years later.
The ties between Ireland and the Choctaw Nation deepended further in 1995 when President Mary Robinson visited to convey the thanks and gratitude of the Irish people for the generosity shown during the Great Famine. In 2017, Choctaw chief Gary Batton visited Midleton, Co. Cork to unveil a sculpture (see below) entitled Kindred Spirits that commemorates the Choctaw donation.
This was followed in 2018 by a visit to the Choctaw Nation by Taoiseach/Prime Minister Leo Varadkar who announced a scholarship programme that would allow Choctaw students to further their education at third level in Ireland.
So as the Irish continue to donate, another interesting page is being written in this remarkable bond that has been forged through the most difficult times for both 'tribes'.
If you would like to support this Native American fundraising effort, please see the Go Fund Me page here
Fundraising Video, click here
For the relevant Facebook Group Page, click here
For Choctaw Nation TV, click here
Irish Times article: Irish donate to hard-hit Native Americans to repay famine aid
For information on the Rural Utah Project, click here