Native American

New Native American Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Stirs Mixed Emotions

Robert Bohrer / Shutterstock.com

Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha in front of Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Robert Bohrer / Shutterstock.com

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Sister Kateri Mitchell was born and raised on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation along the St. Lawrence River. She grew up hearing stories about Kateri Tekakwitha, the 17th-century Mohawk woman who will be declared a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday.

She has long admired Tekakwitha for her steadfast faith and her ability to bridge Native American spirituality with Catholic traditions. In 1961, Mitchell joined the Sisters of St. Anne, and since 1998 she has served as executive director of the Tekakwitha Conference in Great Falls, Mont., a group that has spread Tekakwitha’s story and prayed for her canonization since 1939.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” she said of the canonization at the Vatican. “It’s a great validation.”

Catholics Walk in the Foosteps of New Native American Saint

MOHAWK VALLEY, New York — Twelve-year-old Jake Finkbonner leaned over and ran his hand through a pool of water from a natural spring at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, in Fonda, N.Y.. With that simple gesture, on a recent July weekend, the boy connected literally to the story of the 17th-century Native American woman who the Roman Catholic Church will elevate to sainthood on Oct. 21.

Jake had already connected to her story in what he believes is a miraculous way. The boy's inexplicable recovery from a flesh-eating illness in 2006 is attributed to prayers to Kateri (pronounced Gad-a-lee in Mohawk) on his behalf.

Jake, who is of Lummi descent, said he's gotten used to the attention he draws when people learn he's at the center of the miracle that led the Vatican to decide to proclaim Kateri a saint — a step that will make her one of the church's holy role models, and the first Native American to be canonized.

He likes to read and play basketball, and he loves video games. He and his 10-year-old sister, Miranda, are also training to become altar servers.

"I feel a great amount of gratitude and thanks to her," Jake said of Kateri.

The Sacred Rite of Hunting Bald Eagles

Bald eagle via shutterstock.com

Bald eagle via shutterstock.com

We often hear that there’s a “war on religion,” that certain expressions of Christianity are under attack by secularists seeking a new age of post-God. And while things may or may not be easy for Christians, our rituals are not prohibited by law, like some of our Native American neighbors.

Until recently, it was illegal for Native Americans to acquire bald eagle feathers and parts – relics used for a variety of tribal rituals and ceremonies – by any means other than family or the National Eagle Repository in Denver. 

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West's 'Poverty Tour'

Broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West just wrapped up their 18-city "Poverty Tour." The aim of their trip, which traversed through Wisconsin, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and the Deep South was to "highlight the plight of the poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible." Although the trip has been met with a fair amount of criticism, the issue of poverty's invisibility in American media and politics is unmistakable. The community organizations working tirelessly to help America's poor deserve a great deal more attention than what is being given.

The main attack against the "Poverty Tour" is Smiley and West's criticism of Obama's weak efforts to tackle poverty. For me though, what I would have liked to see more is the collection of stories and experiences from the people West and Smiley met along their trip. The act of collective storytelling in and of itself can be an act of resistance.

Neocolonialism and Cowboys & Aliens

1100801-cowboysandaliensAmericans have a hard time knowing how to respond to the sins of our colonial past. Except for a few extremists, most people know on a gut level that the extermination of the Native Americans was a bad thing. Not that most would ever verbalize it, or offer reparations, or ask for forgiveness, or admit to current neocolonial actions, or give up stereotyped assumptions -- they just know it was wrong and don't know how to respond. The Western American way doesn't allow the past to be mourned or apologies to be made. Instead we make alien invasion movies.

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