In 1847, the Choctaw Nation sent $170 — more than $5,000 today — to Ireland to help during their potato famine

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 06, 2020 04:07 PM

Donations from Ireland are pouring into a GoFundMe campaign to benefit the people of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation as a thank you to Native Americans who helped the country during a famine 173 years ago.

As the donation page explains, the people of the Choctaw Nation donated $170 to Ireland in 1847 just as the country was experiencing a historic famine that would last for years.

The donation, which would amount to $5,351 today, was inspired by the Trail of Tears, which saw the United States government — led by President Andrew Jackson — forcefully remove tens of thousands of Native Americans from their homelands in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida.

These groups were then forced to walk thousands of miles to areas marked “Indian territory," and at least 3,000 Native Americans died along the way, according to the History Channel.

After being put through the tragedy, Native Americans became inspired to help Ireland as deaths began to mount due to the famine. Starvation would eventually kill more than a million Irish people, according to BBC.

Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 71,000 people in the United States as of Wednesday afternoon according to The New York Times, Irish citizens have been making donations to help the Navajo and Hopi (which is surrounded by the Navajo Nation), and show gratitude for their ancestors' help.

The Kindred Spirits Choctaw Monument art installation by Alex Pentek in Bailick Park Midleton County Cork Ireland
The Kindred Spirits Choctaw monument in Bailick Park, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland
| Credit: Ognyan Yosifov/Alamy

"Several of our recent donations for our GoFundMe campaign have been inspired by the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland which started in 1845," an update on the donation page read.

"173 years later to today, the favor is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis," the updated continued.

The Navajo have been especially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The nation, located near the borders of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, is home to about 175,000 people — and yet it has more cases of COVID-19 than nine states, according to New York Times data.

The nation’s first positive case was reported on March 17, and as of Wednesday, there have been 2,559 confirmed cases and 79 deaths, according to NBC affiliate KOB.

So far, the GoFundMe has raised more than $2.7 million from over 50,000 donors.

“From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned!" wrote Irish donor Pat Hayes on the page. "To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship.”

The Kindred Spirits Choctaw Monument art installation by Alex Pentek in Bailick Park Midleton County Cork Ireland
Supples being delivered to Native American families

Through the donation page, the communities thanked the Irish, and all of their donors, who are helping during this most recent time of need.

"The heartache is real. We have lost so many of our sacred Navajo elders and youth to COVID-19. It is truly devastating," an update read. "And a dark time in history for our Nation. In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world."

"Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness," the update continued. "Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.