Unveiling the Bond: Ontario First Nations’ Historic Contributions to Irish Famine Relief

Toronto researchers help uncover Ontario First Nations' donations to Irish Famine relief fund

Discover the remarkable story of Ontario First Nations’ generous donations to the Irish Famine relief fund in 1847, highlighting a forgotten chapter of empathy and solidarity across continents.


In a compelling revelation, Toronto researchers have unearthed archival records that cast light on a largely unknown historical connection between Ontario First Nations and victims of the Irish Famine. This discovery not only enriches our understanding of cross-cultural compassion but also adds a significant chapter to the narrative of Canadian and Irish history.

Unveiling the Bond: Ontario First Nations' Historic Contributions to Irish Famine Relief

The Historical Connection Uncovered

The Discovery

Researchers in Toronto have stumbled upon archival records that reveal significant donations made by Ontario First Nations to the Irish Famine relief fund in 1847, a time when Toronto itself sheltered thousands of Irish famine victims.

The Irish Potato Famine: A Brief Overview

The Irish Potato Famine, a devastating period of starvation and disease, led to the death of a million people and forced many survivors to emigrate. In the summer of 1847, Toronto became a refuge for 38,000 Irish famine victims, despite having a population of only 20,000 at the time.

The Indigenous Contributions

Generosity Across Nations

At least 15 Indigenous bands, recognizing the dire situation in Ireland and Scotland, contributed to the relief efforts by requesting that donations be deducted from their government annuities. These donations, totaling £165 (equivalent to $17,978 today), showcased the profound empathy and solidarity of the Indigenous communities with the Irish.

The Role of Indigenous Peoples

The contributions from Mohawks, Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations, Chippewa, Delaware, Wyandotte, and Mississauga peoples, among others, underscore a remarkable act of generosity during a period of widespread suffering.

Location, Address

The donations were collected and sent from various Indigenous communities across Ontario, Canada, to aid famine victims in Ireland and Scotland.


This story of Ontario First Nations’ contributions to the Irish Famine relief fund not only sheds light on a forgotten act of kindness but also serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of human solidarity. It challenges us to remember and honor these acts of compassion that transcend cultural and geographical boundaries.


What was the Irish Potato Famine?

The Irish Potato Famine was a catastrophic period in the mid-19th century characterized by mass starvation and disease in Ireland, leading to the death of a million people and the emigration of many survivors.

How did Ontario First Nations contribute to the Irish Famine relief?

Ontario First Nations contributed by donating a significant amount of money, totaling £165 (equivalent to $17,978 today), to the relief fund for Irish and Scottish famine victims.

Why is this act of generosity by Ontario First Nations not widely known?

This chapter of history was largely forgotten until recent archival discoveries by researchers, highlighting the need to acknowledge and honor these acts of solidarity.

How did the city of Toronto support Irish famine victims?

In the summer of 1847, Toronto provided refuge to 38,000 Irish famine victims, more than doubling the city’s population at the time.

What does this story tell us about Indigenous communities in Canada?

This story illustrates the deep compassion and solidarity of Indigenous communities, even in times of their own hardships, and highlights their significant contributions to global humanitarian efforts.

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