What goes round, comes round 173 years later

A lasting bond with Ireland was forged by $170 from Choctaw Nation during Irish Potato Famine - Ireland's largest receipt during the famine

Chief Gary Batton leads Choctaw and Irish dancers in the traditional Choctaw Snake Dance at the 2017 dedication ceremony for the sculpture Kindred Spirits in Ireland. (Courtesy of Deidre Elrod/Choctaw Nation)

In 1847, the Choctaw Nation gave $170 dollars (historians calculate to about $5,000 today), perhaps identifying with the Irish people’s suffering based on their own circumstances.
Irish donate $670,000 to Navajo and Hopi
By Katherine Locke : First published: May 12, 2020

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — When the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars recently, everyone was surprised, except perhaps the Choctaw Nation, whose original gift to the Irish people 173 years ago, inspired an outpouring of support.

One million people had died of starvation and disease, which was one-eighth of the Irish population, during the Irish Potato Famine.

In tweets and a story, Irish Times reporter Naomi O’Leary called attention to the fund and also called for action from her people. When the Irish community responded, the fund managers were at first confused.

A 19th-century photograph shows a group of Choctaw people. PUBLIC DOMAIN

We “started noticing the influx of donations from Ireland and said, ‘Hey, is our account being hacked?’” said Cassandra Begay, communications lead for the group.

After some research and reading the messages accompanying the donations on the GoFundMe page, it soon became clear to the managers that the Irish people were responding to a gift given almost seven generations ago by the Choctaw Nation.

The messages accompanying the donations are heartfelt and emotional. They are felt by people working to get help to the Navajo and Hopi during the pandemic.

“We’ve cried. We’ve been a sobbing mess,” Begay said. “We get it. We’re just so grateful to the Choctaw Nation and grateful to Ireland.”

“What [people] fail to note is that [the $170] was the largest donation received, and from one of the smallest nations,” Sean McGarry said. “In our darkest hour, your ancestors taught us the meaning of unadulterated altruism —173 years later, it’s not forgotten. It’s very much alive.”

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  1. What beautiful and great human beings are they! Humanity, compassion, fellow-feeling at its best. The rest of the world should follow them.

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