Tag Archives: Native Americans

Irish return an old favor, helping Native Americans battling the virus

The Kindred Spirits Choctaw Monument art installation in Midleton, Ireland, commemorating the Choctaw donation during the potato famine. Photo credit…Ognyan Yosifov/Alamy

In 1847 the Choctaw people sent $170 to help during the potato famine. Irish donors are citing that gesture as they help two tribes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 170 years ago, the Choctaw Nation sent $170 to starving Irish families during the potato famine. A sculpture in County Cork commemorates the generosity of the tribe, itself poor. In recent decades, ties between Ireland and the Choctaws have grown.

Now hundreds of Irish people are repaying that old kindness, giving to a charity drive for two Native American tribes suffering in the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, the fund-raiser has raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water, food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Irish donors, according to the organizers.

Many donors cited the generosity of the Choctaws, noting that the gift came not long after the United States government forcibly relocated the tribe and several other American Indian groups from the Southeastern United States, a march across thousands of miles known as the Trail of Tears that left thousands of people dead along the way.

“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.”

Cassandra Begay, communications director for the fund-raiser, said in an interview on Tuesday that Irish people appeared to have found the charity effort through posts on Twitter, including one on May 2 from a reporter at The Irish Times, Naomi O’Leary. Ms. Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation, said over the past 48 hours, more than $500,000 had been donated, with most of the money coming from Ireland.

“The Choctaw ancestors planted that seed a long time ago, based off the same fundamental belief of helping someone else,” Ms. Begay said. “It is a dark time for us. The support from Ireland, another country, is phenomenal.”

News of the donations from Ireland came as the coronavirus has been ripping through tribal lands. The Navajo Nation has had one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States. There had been more than 2,700 cases and 70 deaths as of Monday, according to the Navajo Nation.

A high prevalence of diseases like diabetes, scarcity of running water and homes with several generations living under the same roof have enabled the virus to spread with exceptional speed in places like the Navajo Nation, according to epidemiologists. The Hopi reservation is surrounded by the Navajo Nation.

It is not surprising that the ordeals of Native American tribes resonate in Ireland. It is estimated that one million Irish people, mainly poor tenant subsistence farmers, died of hunger or disease from 1845 to 1849, and another million emigrated in that period or shortly afterward.

The famine was among the first humanitarian crises to be reported in the early days of global media, which helped spur donations to Ireland from around the world. In addition to the donation from the Choctaw, money was raised from prisoners in Sing Sing, former slaves in the Caribbean and convicts on a prison ship in London.

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 a similar tale coming from across the ocean,” according to the Choctaw Nation’s description of its bond with the Irish.

Choctaw people then gathered together $170 to send to Irish people in 1847, the equivalent of more than $5,000 today.

“When our ancestors heard of the famine and the hardship of the Irish people, they knew it was time to help,” Mr. Batton wrote in 2017.

The sculpture commemorating the Choctaws’ generosity was dedicated in 2017 in Midleton, Ireland.

Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter, a historian at University College Dublin and co-author, with the writer Colm Toibin, of the book “The Irish Famine,” said that awareness of the Choctaw donation to Irish famine relief had increased sharply since the commemoration of the 150th anniversary in 1995.

The president of Ireland at the time, Mary Robinson, had visited the Choctaws in Oklahoma to thank them. Two years ago, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also paid them a visit.

“It showed how far the famine resonated that it reached people 4,000 miles away who had themselves recently suffered terrible deprivation and clearance from their land,” Professor Ferriter said. “There is a belief that the famine has never been forgotten here, and it has made Irish people more likely to make common cause with other marginalized people.”

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. More recently, Choctaw representatives have taken part in the annual Famine Walk in County Mayo, which commemorates a forced march in terrible weather by hundreds of starving people hoping for government relief.

By Ed O’Loughlin and Mihir Zaveri, published in New York Times

The Kindred Spirits sculpture was created by Alex Pentek, in Cork, Ireland.

400 years later, Natives who helped Pilgrims finally being heard

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

(AP) – The seaside town where the Pilgrims came ashore in 1620 is gearing up for a 400th birthday bash, and everyone’s invited — especially the native people whose ancestors wound up losing their land and their lives.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, whose European settlers have come to symbolize American liberty and grit, marks its quadricentennial in 2020 with a trans-Atlantic commemoration that will put Native Americans’ unvarnished side of the story on full display.

“It’s history. It happened,” said Michele Pecoraro, executive director of Plymouth 400, Inc., a nonprofit group organizing yearlong events. “We’re not going to solve every problem and make everyone feel better. We just need to move the needle.”

Organizers are understandably cautious this time around. When the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing was observed in 1970, state officials disinvited a leader of the Wampanoag Nation — the Native American tribe that helped the haggard newcomers survive their first bitter winter — after learning his speech would bemoan the disease, racism and oppression that followed the Pilgrims.

That triggered angry demonstrations from tribal members who staged a National Day of Mourning, a somber remembrance that indigenous New Englanders have observed on every Thanksgiving Day since.

This time, there’s pressure to get it right, said Jim Peters, a Wampanoag who directs the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs.

“We’ll be able to tell some stories of what happened to us — to delve back into our history and talk about it,” Peters said. “Hopefully it will give us a chance to re-educate people and have a national discussion about how we should be treating each other.”

The commemoration known as Plymouth 400 will feature events throughout 2020, including a maritime salute in Plymouth Harbor in June, an embarkation festival in September, and a week of ceremonies around Thanksgiving.

The Mayflower II , a replica of the ship that carried the settlers from Europe to the New World four centuries ago, will sail to Boston in the spring. That autumn, it will head to Provincetown, at the outermost tip of Cape Cod, where the Pilgrims initially landed before continuing on to Plymouth.

Events also are planned in Britain and in the Netherlands, where the Pilgrims spent 11 years in exile before making their perilous sea crossing.

But the emphasis is on highlighting the often-ignored history of the Wampanoag and poking holes in the false narrative that Pilgrims and Indians coexisted in peace and harmony.

An interactive exhibit now making the rounds describes how the Wampanoag were cheated and enslaved, and in August 2020 tribal members will guide visitors on a walk through Plymouth to point out and consecrate spots where their ancestors once trod.

There are also plans to invite relatives of the late Wampanoag elder Wamsutta “Frank” James to publicly read that speech he wasn’t allowed to deliver in 1970 — an address that includes this passage: “We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end.”

Dusty Rhodes, who chairs a separate state commission working to ensure the commemoration has a global profile, said she hopes it all helps make amends for centuries of “mishandled and misrepresented” history.

“The Pilgrims were the first immigrants,” said Plymouth 400’s Pecoraro. “We’re in a place in this country where we need solidarity. We need to come together. We need to be talking about immigration and indigenous people.”

Plymouth, nicknamed “America’s Hometown,” is sure to draw a crush of 2020 presidential candidates who will use its monuments as campaign backdrops. With President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and other heads of state on the invitation list, state and federal authorities already are busy mapping out security plans.

Wampanoag tribal leader and activist Linda Coombs, who’s helped plan the commemoration, is skeptical that anything meaningful will change for her people.

“It’s a world stage, so we’ll have more visibility than we’ve had in the past,” she said. “We’ll see if it’s enough. It’ll be a measuring stick for all that has to come afterward.”

The Associated Press

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Minnesota panel issues formal permit for disputed Enbridge pipeline

Line 3 construction is already underway in Canada. Image: Enbridge

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota regulators have issued a formal order approving a route permit for Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the project in June. Its written order Friday followed one last month granting a certificate of need. If the commission denies petitions to reconsider those formal orders, opponents can ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn them.

Alberta-based Enbridge says it needs to replace Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking.

But opponents say the new line, which would follow a partly different route, risks oil spills in the pristine Mississippi River headwaters region where Native Americans harvest wild rice, and that it would aggravate climate change.

PUC approves Line 3 route. Map by News Tribune on Oct 26, 2018

By Associated Press

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TransCanada to move materials, prep sites for Keystone XL

TransCanada stockpiling pipe south of Shaunavon for the Keystone XL pipeline, July 8, 2011. Photo By BRIAN ZINCHUK

PIERRE (AP) — The Keystone XL oil pipeline developer said in a letter this week to a Native American tribal chairman that the company will start moving materials and preparing construction sites for the project in Montana and South Dakota.

TransCanada Corp. said in the letter to Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier, of South Dakota, that the work would start in July and go through the fall. The chairman on Thursday tweeted copies of TransCanada’s message and his response on the tribe’s letterhead: “We will be waiting.”

Frazier wasn’t immediately available on Friday to comment to The Associated Press. Keystone XL faces intense resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners along the route.

The project would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the preparatory work will ramp up over the year to position TransCanada for construction in 2019. He said it would include moving pipe and equipment to start clearing activities to prepare for getting final permits and approvals for construction.

But the project faces legal hurdles. Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s decision to approve a route through the state.

A separate federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump’s decision to grant a presidential permit for the project, which was necessary because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

South Dakota’s Supreme Court in June dismissed an appeal from pipeline opponents — including the Cheyenne River Sioux — of a judge’s decision last year upholding regulators’ approval for the pipeline to cross the state.

By Associated Press

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Trump not planning to ship Native Americans to India

This article was originally published by The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump never proposed sending the U.S. population of about 3 million American Indians “back” to India, as a satirical news site claimed in a piece with fabricated tweets attributed to the president.

The Postillon’s story says Trump seeks to improve national security and was to sign an executive order to deport the country’s Native Americans. The story claimed Trump consulted with members of his administration and learned Native Americans don’t have “relevant immigration documents”. It attributes quotes Trump never said to Fox News, and fabricates two tweets from Feb. 13, 2017, about the issue that were never sent from the president’s account.

The piece is illustrated with a photo of Trump speaking last year to troops while visiting U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. The president did call at that event for more stringent screening to keep out those who “want to destroy us and destroy our country.” He said nothing about American Indians, the earliest settlers in North America. Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1924.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

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