ROBERT JAY WATSON
The Epoch Times

Charitable donations from a GoFundMe campaign initiated in Ireland have been pouring in to support Native American communities hard hit by the pandemic.

The reason for the generous act harks back some 170 years.

During the Great Famine from 1845-1849 in Ireland, it was the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma that donated to help those starving across the Atlantic.

“The death of many people on the Trail of Tears sparked empathy for the Irish people in their time of need. Thus, the Choctaw extended $170 of relief aid,” Vanessa Tulley, one of the fundraiser’s organizers, wrote on the campaign page.

That amount of $170 in those days would be the equivalent of about $5,000 today, USA Today reports.

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

The virus has particularly affected elderly members of the Navajo and Hopi nations, whose members live across remote parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

“The heartache is real,” Tulley wrote on the GoFundMe campaign. “We have lost so many of our sacred Navajo elders and youth to COVID- 19. It is truly devastating. And a dark time in history for our Nation.”

The fundraiser is focused on providing food, drinking water, and health supplies such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to spreadout communities, many of whom lack access to electricity and running water.

Irish Times journalist Naomi O’Leary helped bring the relief effort to the attention of her fellow citizens via her Twitter account.

“Native Americans raised a huge amount in famine relief for Ireland at a time when they had very little. It’s time for is to come through for them now,” she wrote on May 2.

O’Leary’s message received more than 8,000 likes and got the ball rolling for donations to the Hopi and Navajo people. The same day, she posted several of the donors’ surnames in recognition, names such as “Twomey, Hanrahan, Casey, Tulley, O’Leary, and Munro.” Since Irish donors stepped up to the plate, the campaign has surged to more than $3.8 million raised. Cassandra Begay, one of the organizers of the relief fund, was stunned and emotional when she realized how many of the contributions were coming from Ireland.

“Many of us have never talked to someone who is Irish,” Begay told The Irish Times. “It’s been a really difficult time, and to see the kindness that the Irish people have extended us has been really heart-warming, especially during this dark time because we have lost a lot of people and it’s devastating for our community.”

The 173-year-old gesture of solidarity has been memorialized in Cork County, Ireland, in the form of a sculpture of 20 stainless- steel eagle feathers arranged in a circle. The sculpture was inaugurated in 2015 in the presence of chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation.

When Batton heard about the incredible generosity of Irish donors toward the Hopi and Navajo, he understood its historical meaning. He shared a message with O’Leary, which she posted on Twitter, saying, “Adversity often brings out the best in people.”

She captioned her post with more words from the chief, “We are gratified? and perhaps not at all surprised? to learn of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi nation.”