Grateful Irish honour their Famine debt to Choctaw tribe
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Funds for native American tribes who have been badly hit by coronavirus are flooding in from Ireland as they repay a debt dating back to the 19th-century famine.
At least 41 people have fallen victim to Covid-19 in the Navajo Nation, which straddles parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
The rise in cases is partly attributed to a water crisis.
An estimated 40pc of the Navajo do not have running water at home, and a drought in the south-west exacerbated the crisis.
As the pandemic intensified, the Navajo and Hopi families set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise cash to pay for bottled water. Already more than $1.3m (€1.2m) has been raised, with donations flooding in from Ireland.
The generosity dates back to a gesture made in March 1847 when the Choctaw tribe, which was gradually re-establishing itself in Oklahoma having been ousted from its ancestral lands in Mississippi, heard of the Great Famine.
Meeting in a building in Skullyville, Oklahoma, the Choctaw were asked to dig deep for people miles away they had never met. They did and the donations poured in.
Now, 173 years later, the gesture is being repaid with donors from Ireland.
“The Choctaw and Navajo people helped the Irish during the Great Famine, despite their own suffering,” wrote Michael Corkery, who donated $200.
“When I learned about it, I never forgot it. It’s history now, but we are still grateful. Thank you!”