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Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, North American Saint

Updated on April 28, 2013

Becoming a Saint

Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks has a melodic lilt to it. Think what you will of the process of becoming a saint, but just the act of bringing her name to the public's attention brings forth curiosity about this woman's life. Who was she?

Her name alone is intensely appealing and interesting to me. I enjoy history and reading about individuals from a bygone era. Kateri's life brings to the forefront details of what life was like for North American natives three hundred years ago. That alone is worth the look into her life... and yet there are miracles attributed to her.

The romantic in me likes to believe miracles are indeed possible.

Let's take a peek...

First North American Saint

Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha | Source

Saint Kateri Officially Canonized October 21, 2012

Pope Benedict officially canonized Saint Kateri Tekakwitha before Sunday Mass at the Vatican, October 21, 2012.

In attendance were about 1500 Canadians many of them indigenous peoples. Saint Kateri is the first North American Indigenous saint. Considering the terrible past of the Catholic church with native peoples in North America and the fact many Catholic Saints are martyrs, perhaps this is fitting even though there is no record that she suffered at the hands of the church. She was in fact a devoted follower.

Kateri, however, was a survivor. The offspring of a Mohawk father and an Algonquin Christian mother, she was almost blinded and scarred from smallpox that took the lives of both of her parents and her only brother. At the tender age of four, she became an orphan. Remember that was 1660.

She was born in 1656 in what was to become New York State. After the death of her family she was sent to live with her Mohawk uncle near present day Montreal. Indeed, her uncles family had to have been total strangers to her.

The BlackRobes (Jesuit priests) visited the village often converting natives. On Easter in 1676, at the age of twenty, Kateri was converted. It is related that she was persecuted by the villagers for her faith. It could not have been easy since her uncle also despised the Jesuits.

She eventually left or rather escaped the village with the objective to become a nun and was accepted as a sister at the mission in Kahnawake.

Yet her life was to be short-lived. She contracted tuberculosis and died at the young age of 24. Legend has it that upon her death those that were present witnessed that her smallpox scars disappeared and she became very beautiful.

After her death miracles were attributed to her long before the modern era. She was declared venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943and beautified by Pope John Paul on June 30, 1980

Her remains are resting in Kahnawake at the St Francis-Xavier Church.

Why is She Important?

Saints are venerated by Catholics as having special powers. They are considered more pure than the average human; considered able to intercede on our behalf in times of stress or illness.

While the Catholic church may have made Kateri a saint for their own purpose, she is a symbol for indigenous people. and vulnerable women, which she herself was

She did not live a long life and at 24 what could she have experienced that made her a saint? Well, from accounts she did suffer the loss of parents and a debilatating illness. She concentrated on her religion and was very devoted. However, there has to have been something in her that attracted attention, otherwise her name would have disappeared with her death, but it didn't.

It is interesting that this young woman who died before her time and lived a fairly obscure life would have been chosen as a saint. It means, she will go down in history and her story will be recounted much longer than the life stories of many rich and powerful of today. She will endure Lady Gaga and the celebrities of this age.

Think on that and that alone is miraculous. A mere woman...indigenous at that who by all intents and purposes was shunned and alone, who lived centuries before us, will be remembered and venerated centuries after our generations have come and gone into obscurity.

In that alone, she is a powerful symbol. One doesn't have to be rich and powerful or even a man to endure the march of time. I find that refreshing.

Long live the memory of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks an indigenous North American woman!


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  • Scribenet profile image

    Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    BkCreative, I agree with you. There is so much of our ancient history that is lost without written record. So many interesting lives lived and forgotten. I bet this is why time travel, as an idea, is so appealing...just to see what life was actually like in another era. Winters had to be particularly tough...not a season to look forward to as now!

  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 4 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    Thank you so much for this well written and informative hub. We would all be better if we knew about the ancient history of this land.

  • Scribenet profile image

    Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    HI Brent! Aptly said. :)

  • profile image

    brent7750 4 years ago

    What is a saint? I believe we are all saints, we just choose when and how we become one. If I am told by someone else how to be a saint, then I am not being who I am and am trying to be a saint and not just being one. Kateri made her choices in life, whatever those choices were, yet she did her best and was open to God and all that unfolded for her, allowing her to become the saint we all can be. God appoints saints, who says this? I believe this to an extent but God loves us enough to let us make our choices in life and in doing so, what will we choose, saint, or no saint.

  • Scribenet profile image

    Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I agree KoffeeKlatchGals. I would like to find more on this wonderful personality. It is amazing to think how she lived and still had all that grace and peace in her life. She is indeed fascinating and the fact that cures are attributed to her make her more so.

    The last miracle was a boy that went to the actual ceremony in Rome declaring Kateri a saint...

    He was all but given up for as the disease: flesh eating bacteria (on his face) kept progressing relentlessly. No antibiotics were working and he healed spontaneously...though he is scarred from what the doctors had to remove from his face in the battle to try to save his life. That family believes it was a miracle. Wish I had a link to the television broadcast of the documentation of this family's struggle... it was quite poignant.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

    What a fascinating article. How sad for her that she had to go through what she did but how wonderful that she found peace in religion. It leaves you wanting to know more.

  • Scribenet profile image

    Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks Dim! I wanted to learn about this woman...just wish I could have found more. Her life must have been difficult...but then again, in those days everyone had a difficult life compared to our modern world!

    Appreciate your support! Happy New Year!

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 4 years ago from Great Britain

    Fascinating story.

    Voted up and awesome.

  • Scribenet profile image

    Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi Nell! Yes, her canonization happened this year. I was struck by the fact that she was quite ordinary in life and has become this symbol of both indigenous people and women...which I think is wonderful whatever one might think of miracles or religion... and I do love her melodic name.

    Thank you for your always, appreciated very much! Merry Christmas!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

    Hi, this is fascinating news, she was only canonised this year? Wow! and over the centuries in future she will become much more famous and miracles will be said to have happened in her name, whether they do happen or not, it doesn't matter, she was a special lady, what a great story though, voted up! nell