“After nourishment, shelter, an companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world.” Philip Pullman
How true this is! When my wonderful sister Stephanie told me a heartwarming story she’d read about Ireland coming to the aid of Native American tribes hard hit by the global pandemic, I knew I wanted to share it.
More than 170 years ago, not long after Native American tribes suffered horrible losses of life on Trail of Tears march, the Choctaw Nation learned of the terrible potato famine that was sweeping through Ireland. In an act of generosity that Ireland still remembers and celebrates, the Choctaws sent $170 – about $5,000 today — to help starving Irish families. A lovely sculpture of feathers waving in the wind now graces a County Cork park and memorializes the tribe’s generosity.
Int the midst of today’s suffering, hundreds of Irish people from all across the country have remembered this great kindness and returned it by launching a GoFundMe campaign for Native American tribes devastated by Covid-19. To date, the campaign has raised almost $2 million to help bring health and other supplies to Navajos and Hopis on reservations, with hundreds of thousands of these dollars contributed by Irish donors
As a New York Times story (May 5, 2020) by Ed O’Loughlin and Mihir Zaveri reported: “I’d already known what the Choctaw did in the famine, so short a time after they’d been through the Trail of Tears,” Sean Callahan, 43, an Apple administrator in Cork City who made a donation, said on Tuesday. “It always struck me for its kindness and generosity and I see that too in the Irish people. It seemed the right time to try and pay it back in kind.”
“On Sunday the organizers wrote in praise of ‘acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness.’
“Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us,” one said on the GoFundMe page.
“Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said in a statement on Tuesday that the tribe was “gratified — and perhaps not at all surprised — to learn of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi Nations.
“We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine,” he said. “We hope the Irish, Navajo and Hopi peoples develop lasting friendships, as we have.”
Irish donors seem to have learned of the charity drive via Twitter posts and to have responded with enthusiasm. In one48-hour period, more than $500,000 was donated.
Stories like this remind us that we are all connected, that kindness ripples on forever and sparks more acts of kindness, and on and on. What better example can we have of the power of story to unite and inspire us. The story of Native American kindness in a moment of Ireland’s need has never been forgotten by the Irish and today, it has flown back to America on the wings of love. Beautiful! Let’s keep those stories coming as we all write on!