In early July, at a small powwow in Fonda, New York, the New York Times spoke with a number of people about their thoughts on Kateri Tekakwitha, the Mohawk woman who was born in 1656 and who will be named a saint this October by the Vatican.
“At a time when Natives are still treated like third-class citizens, it’s very impressive that the Vatican and the Catholic Church is finally recognizing her,” Pat Whyland, a Mohawk from Syracuse, New York, told the Times. “Not everyone knows about her,” she added, “but once you become familiar with her, you become very attached to her and her story.”
Tom Porter, Mohawk, told the Times that some American Indians question the church’s story of Kateri, but he also said, “She was raised mostly by our tradition, so her spirituality was mostly of the real old faith.” Porter leads a group of traditional Mohawks near where Kateri grew up in Auriesville, New York.
Others feel as though Kateri added to her Native beliefs by becoming Catholic.
“I don’t look at it like she gave up her Native beliefs,” Toby Whyland-Rich told the Times.
Others hope that canonizing Kateri will heal separations.
“She can help us by connecting us together,” Stanley M. Perry, Navajo, told the Times. She may be a saint of the Catholics, he said, but as a Mohawk she can signify the sacredness of all life. “We are all saints,” he told the Times. “You, me, Mother Earth.”
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