The memory of the generosity of the Choctaw Nation and other First Nation peoples to the Irish poor in 1847 is prompting an outpouring of donations from Ireland to the Navajo and Hopi families, who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Many of the contributions are accompanied by a message recalling this gesture of benevolence from one impoverished people to another.
In June 1847, an Irish newspaper reporting on this donation commented, ‘Lo! The Poor Indian stretches his hand in honest kindness to his poor Celtic brother across the sea’. They contrasted the generosity of people who were themselves poor and had no direct relationship with Ireland with the parsimony and indifference of the British government to the suffering of the people whom they governed. On 13 May 2020, Doreen McPaul, the Attorney General for the Navajo Nation, says she is proud of the Irish outpouring of support during the coronavirus crisis in part because of her Irish roots.
At the weekend, Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of the Great Hunger Institute, contributed to a discussion on this remarkable and uplifting story, hosted by Brian O’Donovan on Boston Public Radio. The Institute has been involved in raising funds for the Navajos and other Native Americans. The link to the interview is below and it includes details of how you can contribute and be part of the circle of giving.