Native Americans Helping the Irish

The 1840s was a very difficult time in Ireland due to the potato famine. It caused poor tenant subsistence farmers, to die due to hunger or disease from 1845 to 1849, and 1.5 million to emigrate in that period or shortly afterward to other locations, especially to America. If you have been about to track your family lineage back to the 1840s-1850s, you might have found some Irish immigrants. Many of those early immigrants settled in Boston, New York and Chicago.

Just before the potato famine, many native American Indians were being forced to move westward from their native homeland beginning in 1830 to 1847. The Choctaws were the first tribe to be relocated during the Trail of Tears, starting in 1831, with thousands dying and many starving. Years later, the Choctaws learned of the Irish potato famine and a great empathy was felt when they heard such suffering by the Irish across the ocean. They took it among themselves to help and so gathered together $170 to send to Irish people in 1847. That amount is equal to about $5,000 today. The money donated by the Choctaws was distributed in Ireland by members of the Quaker community, who are still remembered for their leading role in famine relief. Other nations followed suit to help the Irish.

This assistance was never forgotten. In 2014 a special sculpture was created in Ireland, a 20-foot stainless steel arrangement of nine eagle feathers arranged in a circle to form a bowl shape. It was placed in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland and named ‘Kindred Spirits’. It had its official unveiling in June 2017 which included a delegation from the Choctaw Nation.

Now in 2020, the Irish have learned of the suffering of several Native Indian tribes in American due to Covid-19 pandemic. The Irish established a fund-raising site to help supply clean water, food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, bordering each other. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have come from Irish donors along with many other people in other nations including the United States and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. Nearly 2 million dollars has been raised as of mid-May.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation climb to 3,392 with 119 deaths as of mid-May 2020. The Navajo and Hopi Nations are grateful for the support of Ireland, they are both ‘kindred spirits’.


Photos: Trail of Tears; Irish in cottages; and Kindred Spirits Sculpture.

Related Blogs:

Native American Ancestors

Irish Move to America

Researching Irish Ancestors

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