Claudia Morris was inspired to help the Navajo Nation by her own Irish ancestry and its interweaving history with Native Americans in the US.

Claudia Morris, a resident of Colorado who has Irish roots in Co Galway and Co Mayo, has donated a much-needed water tank and trailer to the Navajo Nation, a donation that was inspired by the gift that the Choctaw Nation made to Ireland in 1847.

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Morris, whose story was first featured on KOAT News in New Mexico, told IrishCentral how the Choctaw Nation’s gift to Ireland during the height of the Great Famine was a thing of fate for her Irish ancestors. Her second great grandfather John Doherty immigrated from Claremorris in Co Mayo to the US aboard the Ship Senator in 1848, the year after the Choctaw Nation sent a monetary donation to the starving Irish.

“I wouldn’t exist, none of my family wouldn’t have existed, without that charitable gift from the Choctaw,” Claudia told IrishCentral. “It’s how we’re all connected. The Dohertys benefited, it kept him [John Doherty] alive to get him on the ship. That we all survived is a miracle.”

That sense of connectivity continues to inspire Morris today.  A resident of Colorado, Morris lives on land that neighbors Native American reservations. She has long been interested in not only her family’s Irish ancestry, but its interweaving with Native American history - she notes that her Morris predecessors were friends of the Choctaw tribe in Alabama and that she now protects a sacred site that belongs to the Ute tribe.

Claudia Morris with Roland McCook of the Ute tribe during the blessing of the Nuche Forest Reserve (Image: Claudia Morris)

Claudia Morris with Roland McCook of the Ute tribe during the blessing of the Nuche Forest Reserve (Image: Claudia Morris)

Read More: The Irishman aiding Native American tribes who feel “forgotten” during COVID pandemic

The Native American community has been hit particularly hard during the coronavirus crisis, mainly due to its lack of infrastructure. As of May 20, there had been 4,253 positive coronavirus tests in the Navajo Nation and 146 deaths. The Navajo Nation has now surpassed New York City, a coronavirus 'hotspot' in the US, as the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the US.

Morris says she recently saw a news report about the local volunteer organization Compassionate Colorado, and was struck by the young people working to gather much-needed donations for the struggling Native American communities. 

Morris says the organization's work, to her, is fulfilling the ‘seven generations’ prophecy from Crazy Horse, which says in part “I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.”

“We are all connected,” Morris tells IrishCentral, noting how the Native Americans helped her Irish ancestors, and now it is her time to return the favor in their time of need.

According to Compassionate Colorado, 40 percent of the Navajo Nation does not have access to running water, and 30 percent live in poverty.

“They [the Navajo] have no infrastructure for water, for power, or for broadband. But water? To wash your hands is so critical to fight the virus," says Morris.

“For me, it was clear what I needed to do - I needed to hook up with these people, these people of many colors, and provide them with the essential water, it’s life for them. Water is life.”

“I figured okay, how do I get them water? I had this 210-gallon tank for ranching, I had it on a trailer, I hooked the trailer to my truck and met up with them in Pueblo. The most precious gift was the water.”

Ms. Claudia in Pueblo donated a water tank and a trailer to our cause to return the compassionate gift that the Natvies...

Publiée par Compassionate Colorado sur Samedi 16 mai 2020

Ashlee Lewis, co-founder of Compassionate Colorado, told IrishCentral that ever since her donation, Morris is “all in.” The proud Irish American continues to work with Compassionate Colorado, disseminating information about the organization and serving as a drop-off volunteer.

“For us, it looks like we have found another family member,” Lewis said.

*Compassionate Colorado is continuing to appeal for help for the Navajo Nation as it struggles through the coronavirus crisis. The organization is requesting food, in particular for the Navajo school children through the summer, as well as masks, water, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, over-the-counter medications, and cash donations.  (You can make cash donations on Venmo to @Ashlee444 or @Lucas45.) You can learn more about helping their mission on their Facebook page.

Read More: “Ireland remembers” - Irish donations help raise more than $2.6mil for Native Americans