As Chris explained back on August 5, this October two women from Upstate, NY are being canonized, one of which Chris already shared with you, being Saint Marianne Cope. The other woman who he shared shared very little about will additionally be the first Native American to ever be canonized as well. We had the pleasure of visiting the site where Tekakwitha took the name Kateri, and on October 21, 2012 will forever be now known as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Before this time, Kateri Tekakwith was simply known by her Native American name of Tekakwitha, but gained the name Kateri, which derives from the French Catherine, when she was formally baptized into the Catholic faith.
This site of Kateri’s baptism (and another site that Chris and I visited the same which Chris will soon write about) is easily the farthest Chris and I have ever traveled for the purposes of this blog. Kateri Tekakwitha is venerated in a shrine off of Rt.5 in Fonda, New York, which is only approximately 45 minutes west of Albany. Fonda is in the Mohawk River Valley, and the River itself is named after the Native American tribe which once inhabited the lands and tribe which Kateri was a member of. One must realize that during the lifetime of Kateri, America was not yet a country and the Mohawk River Valley was completely wilderness, with the river as the sole means of transportation. Increasing competition between the British and the French in Canada for the lands in the Great Lakes area was at its peak. As a means of slowly winning the “hearts and minds” of the Native Americans to their side (which actually did end up working), the French began to send Jesuit missionaries down through Lake Champlain to the Hudson River, and ultimately to the Mohawk River Valley, where the Jesuits began to slowly acculturate themselves with the Native Americans, and eventually the Native Americans to Catholicism.
Also at the time of Kateri, the Mohawk Indian tribe was now a founding member of the Iroquois Nation, also known as the Haudenosaunee or “People of the Longhouse,” which encompassed four other tribes (Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca… the Tuscarora would join later) within it at the time. While part of a greater body, each tribe also remained semi-autonomous; which was very evident in the dealings with Jesuit missionaries. While The Onondagas and Senecas welcomed the Jesuits or “black-robes,” the Mohawks not only were unwelcoming, but at times are reported to have indiscriminately killed and even tortured small parties of Jesuits who they randomly encountered. The Jesuits eventually stopped sending missionaries, but after the Iroquois tribal council intervened and basically ordered the Mohawks to relent, the Jesuits eventually returned. Read more