South Korea Sends 10K Masks to Navajo Nation to Honor Their Service as ‘Code Talkers’ During Korean War

Navajo code talker Thomas Begay-2017-JASON JIMENEZ/U.S. MARINE CORPS

When the South Korean government realized that the Navajo Nation had been suffered infection rates of COVID-19 rivaling that of New York City, it shipped them 10,000 masks and other PPE to honor their service seven decades years ago to the East-Asian nation.

During the Korean War around 800 members of the Navajo Nation used their native language as an unbreakable code for radio messages, ensuring complete secrecy around any military movements by the United States, an ally to South Korea.

While this little-known story in the famous ‘police action’ that was the Korean War often goes untold, the South Koreans have never forgotten the Native American contributions.

According to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in South Korea, around 130 of these “Code Talkers” are still alive today.

“We hope our small gifts will console the veterans in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” said committee co-chairman Kim Eun-gi.

“The government remembers those who made a noble sacrifice to defend a strange country 70 years ago, and we hope they will proudly tell their posterity about the choice they made so many years ago.”

South Korea, which has so far handled the COVID-19 pandemic quite well by essentially testing anyone and everyone, has sent masks all over the world—including one half million to the Department of Veterans Affairs in honor of American soldiers who fought and died on the Korean peninsula, and those who serve their country today.

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Irish People Are Repaying Debt of Gratitude to Suffering Native Americans 170 Years After Potato Famine

A repayment of gratitude 170 years in the making has rekindled an affectionate bond linking the Great Irish Potato Famine of almost two centuries ago with a Native American tribe in Oklahoma suffering today from the coronavirus pandemic.

In 1847, when Ireland was experiencing years of starvation due to a potato blight, the North American Choctaw tribe joined a compassionate campaign in the U.S. to help these strangers an ocean away.

Despite their own suffering, having been forced to relocate hundreds of miles from their native land, the tribe pooled their pennies and raised $170 (almost $5,000 in today’s currency) to send to the Emerald Isle through a relief fund.

Returning the Kindness

Today, the Navajo and Hopi tribes have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their high rate of infection is thought to be due to a lack of running water in one-third of all homes and shortage of groceries, forcing families to leave the reservation for supplies.

To finance a plan to provide bottled water and other supplies directly to the reservation, a GoFundMe campaign was set up by Navajo and Hopi families. Now, almost $2.7 million has been raised so far, with many donations flowing in from Irish citizens expressing gratitude for the help they received so many decades ago.

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“Ours is a debt that can never be repaid, but please consider this a small token of love and solidarity from your Irish brothers and sisters. Praying for the strength, wellbeing and prosperity of your community always” said Caroline Kelly, adding a Gaelic message of unity. “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.”

“When the Choctaw people had nothing, they gave Ireland all they could at a time when we needed it most. I know it’s not much, but I hope this helps our friends in their time of need,” added Ciaran Mc brearty.

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“Sending Irish blessings, hope, faith and love to our dear Native American brothers and sisters whose ancestors gave us hope in our time of need so many years ago, too,” wrote Aoife Galway. “Thank you agus sláinte, Aoife ☘❤”

Honoring the Choctaw

Three years ago, a soaring silver monument to honor the donations from Native Americans was unveiled in County Cork, Ireland—and Choctaw leaders were invited to the grand unveiling.

Asked about his inspiration to create the huge stainless steel sculpture of nine eagle feathers, the local artist Anex Penetek said, “I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed.”

The financial support continues to pour in, hour by hour, along with messages of solidarity linking two cultures who uniquely know the meaning of widespread suffering—and the value of supporting one another through it.

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Cherokee Nation First U.S. Tribe to be Invited to Preserve Their Heirloom Species in Global Seed Vault

With close to 1 million samples from nearly every country on earth, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the remote Svalbard Island, between Norway and the Arctic, contains the largest collection of seeds and other plant specimens in the world.

Last week, the Cherokee Nation became the first Native-American tribe to receive an invitation to contribute seeds of their own heirloom crops and join the effort to ensure biodiversity and food security in the uncertain centuries ahead.

“This is history in the making,” said a Cherokee Nation press release. “It is such an honor to have a piece of our culture preserved forever. Generations from now, these seeds will still hold our history and there will always be a part of the Cherokee Nation in the world.”

The tribal office of the Secretary of Natural Resources collected nine samples of Cherokee heirloom crops to send to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, including Cherokee White Eagle Corn, the tribe’s most sacred corn, which is typically used during cultural activities, and three other varieties of corn grown for consumption in distinct locations to keep the strains pure.

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Other seeds sent to the Svalbard seed bank include Cherokee Long Greasy Beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, Cherokee Turkey Gizzard black and brown beans, and Cherokee Candy Roaster Squash.

These heirloom species predate the arrival of Europeans on the American continents, and their preservation offers a chance to secure critical biodiversity for the central North American region in case of crop shortages or other disasters that could result in flora extinction events.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Tiq, CC license

It also ensure that the proud history of the Cherokee will live on through the ages.

In 2019, after being interviewed by National Public Radio about the Cherokee Nation’s own heirloom seed bank program, their Senior Director of Environmental Resources, Pat Gwin was contacted by the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

“He sent me an email and said they would be honored to have the tribe’s seeds in the seed vault,” said Gwin. “…Knowing the Cherokee Nation’s seeds will be forever protected and available to us … is a quite valuable thing indeed.”

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