Ireland Is Repaying a Famine-Era Generosity by Donating Millions to Native Americans Fighting COVID-19

Ireland's Great Famine in the 1840s struck a chord with the Choctaw people, who were well-acquainted with starvation, poverty, and oppression.
Ireland's Great Famine in the 1840s struck a chord with the Choctaw people, who were well-acquainted with starvation, poverty, and oppression.
cupcakegill/iStock via Getty Images

In 1847, members of the Choctaw Nation gathered for a meeting in Skullyville, Oklahoma, where they decided to join a rather unexpected humanitarian cause: Providing relief to those in Ireland affected by the Great Famine.

The Choctaw people were hardly in a position to part with any resources. In 1831, they were the first Native Americans that the U.S. government forced to abandon their lands east of the Mississippi River and embark on the westbound journey now known as the Trail of Tears. In fact, according to, it was actually a Choctaw leader who coined the phrase "Trail of Tears," telling a newspaper reporter that the harrowing trek was “a trail of tears and death.”

They were still adjusting to life in their new territory in the mid-1840s when the news of Ireland’s plight struck a chord among the Nation's members—many of whom were all too familiar with poverty, starvation, and oppression. They collected $170 (the equivalent of about $5000 in today's dollars) and sent it overseas to be used for food, livestock feed, and other necessities.

The donation forged a bond between Ireland and the Choctaw Nation that not only remains 173 years later, but has also expanded to include other Native American communities. Over the past few weeks, a GoFundMe campaign set up to help Navajo and Hopi families affected by the coronavirus pandemic has raised more than $2.6 million, largely due to donations from Irish citizens.

Many donors have referenced the Choctaw Nation’s selfless act from 1847, offering strength and support with messages like “In remembrance of the generosity to Ireland in our time of need” and “From Ireland with love and gratitude.”

As TIME reports, the Navajo Nation is suffering from one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates per capita in the U.S., with more than 2300 confirmed cases and 73 deaths as of May 3. The GoFundMe donations are going toward deliveries of food, water, and medical supplies, especially to elderly members of both the Navajo and Hopi nations.

While Irish citizens have been exceptionally enthusiastic about the relief effort, plenty of other people have made charitable contributions, too. If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so here.

[h/t TIME]

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Starbucks Is Giving Free Coffee to Frontline COVID-19 Workers All Month Long

Starbucks is saying thank you in typical Starbucks fashion.
Starbucks is saying thank you in typical Starbucks fashion.

Starbucks is showing its support for those individuals on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 this holiday season by giving the gift of free coffee—all month long.

From now through December 31, any health care worker or other frontline worker can get a tall hot or iced coffee whenever they stop by Starbucks. The offer extends to just about anybody in a medical profession, including doctors, nurses, public health administrators, pharmacists, paramedics, dentists and dental hygienists, therapists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other mental health professionals. Non-medical hospital personnel—including members of the janitorial, housekeeping, and security staffs—also qualify, as do emergency dispatchers, firefighters, police officers, and active-duty members of the military.

To address the pandemic’s emotional toll on essential workers, Starbucks has also contributed $100,000 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness to be used for virtual mental health services; and the company will give out 50,000 Starbucks care packages and gift cards to frontline workers across the country. While the main goal is to show gratitude to those keeping the nation afloat during an extremely difficult time, Starbucks is also hoping their initiative can be an example for other companies with resources to spare.

“Hopefully other brands will join us in thinking about how [they can] use their platform to again show support,” Virginia Tenpenny, Starbucks's vice president of global social impact, told USA TODAY. “Little deposits in morale can really go a long way, just so that they feel the support from our community.”

It’s not the first time Starbucks has spearheaded a long-term coffee giveaway this year; between March and May, the company handed out more than 2 million free cups of joe to professionals helping the country through the coronavirus pandemic. The Starbucks Foundation has also donated several million dollars to relief funds, food banks, and local organizations.

[h/t USA Today]