Archives for category: Education

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O groves and thickets planted by the hand of the Beloved;

O verdant meads

Enamelled with flowers,

Tell me, has He passed by you?  


A thousand graces diffusing

He passed through the groves in haste,

And merely regarding them

As He passed

Clothed them with His beauty. 







(Artistic credit: Emeteria Rios Martinez; Words: St John of the Cross)

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           NSW Department of Education and Communities           

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Where hast Thou hidden Thyself  

And abandoned me in my groaning, Oh my Beloved?  

Thou hast fled like a stag

Having wounded me

I ran after Thee, crying; but Thou wert gone


O shepherds, you who go

Through the sheepcots up the hill,

If you shall see Him

Whom I love the most

Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.


In search of my Love

I will go over mountains and strands;

I will gather no flowers

I will fear no wild beasts

And pass by the mighty and the frontiers





(Artistic credits:  Taren Point Public School and Richard Campbell; Words: St John of the Cross)

Greetings to all who follow this blog with good will and enthusiasm,

We’ve added a new section reviewing books, movies, documentaries etc. which have themes relevant to First Nations communities. Over time we hope to be adding more and more and more and we welcome positive and encouraging feedback from you about your experiences and insights relative to the topics explored in our reviews.

Please feel free to have your say by using the comments section but bear in mind that anything hostile, rude, abusive or not within the boundaries of good conduct will NOT be tolerated and anyone who persists in defying the protocol of good-will on this website will be blocked. This is because this site is for spreading educational awareness to fight racism and xenophobia on every front and in order to do this well we must bear with each other in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation. The traditional understanding of spiritual well-being riding on the wings of harmony is what we want to promote and preserve on this website for we are about liberation, healing and reconciliation. Anything contrary to this spirit is not welcome.


Life begs the question sometimes ~

Why can’t we stay firmly planted, stay firmly put where we by rights really ought to be?

I know that during this Christmas season I have been confronted many times by this very question in a number of different and sometimes frustrating ways. And it seems the answer has just come to my awareness as to why we are sometimes, at the most inconvenient of moments urged to move on. It’s really a question of do or die. You see, sometimes circumstances come before us that are not necessarily as benign as those we have gradually been getting used to or that we actually have been surrounded by. These things if they cannot pass over us, they will attempt to make a run at us in order to “push us out of the way”. And sometimes the only way to avoid getting permanently “pushed out of the way” is to make a dash for it in the short term so that in the long term….and so the story continues…

(Photo credits – see post dated at December 24, 2012)

In Navaho culture as in a number of other indigenous cultures, there lies the concept of Beauty (Hózhó in Navaho) as encompassing far more and profoundly other than just the superficial nature of how someone sees someone else or what consumer culture relegates as ‘beautiful’. At the heart of this concept is the learning of a vital life lesson for those of us whom are embraced by cultures which exemplify this ideal as a necessity in the art of spiritual self-actualization. And it is not the easiest of things to learn especially when we are confronted in the century of today with the daily life symptoms of alienation from the ancient rubrics of our own cultural roots especially if you are someone of the urban native experience, pretty much like myself who has come full boar face-to-face en masse with avalanches of subliminal acculturations day-in, day-out for years on end. This had happened to me right up until fairly recently, only a few years ago when I was bestruck about how meaningless and devoid of understanding much of my life-experience had been up until the moment I had a profound instance of identity realization from within which only became more solidified when I discovered, through a family history exploration undertaken by an uncle on my mother’s side, that I had a matrilineal heritage relationship to an indigenous people group (see my gravatar), sorely and barely recognized in the now time for what they have really been Divinely decreed as. That is not to say that I had never ever been able to take hold of any significance in life before that moment but rather, many years up until that moment had been spent in an alienated world, one in which I had lost that deep connection with all the love that was lavished on me by my Maker and by my family when younger. So this moment was pretty crucial to bringing me out of the pit of alienation I had become unbeknowingly locked into for such a long time as a result of my own foly when I was an undergrad student.

Consequentially this new realization has been the foundation for how I have come into the awareness that life is full of greater meaning and mystery than what the secular world would have us believe. For the Creator has put us here to be co-relators in His Divine plan of the unfolding mystery of Love personified and ultimately in the redemption plan for all creation. Hence our responsibility to be ultra-conscious of this as the undercurrent in our active search for the fulfillment of our lives. As indigenous people with a particular life-project narrative borne out of the Beauty Way, the responsibility resting upon us, leaning upon us, urging us on is that of recognizing the need to re-cognicize our relationship to All That Is in the little acts of daily interactivity we find ourselves in. The Beauty Way necessitates an active participatory recollection of the way in which we share ourselves with others – is this in balance, in proportion to how the Creator, how God would want us to relate? Does it exude all manner of graces which reflect our unique connection with the Divine? Are we able to converse without getting caught up in the pressures and temptations that present themselves as subtle but insistent cavalcades of “do it now or else”, “get it over with” shoves inside our emotional make-up? This no doubt is a delicate balance to keep within our hearts – particularly when one is just beginning to recognise this “something more”. Later on though after some solid immersion in the spiritual dynamics of being in this rhythmn, being in touch with the essence of the Beauty Way inside one’s self becomes as a song, as a dance between worlds within – and each of these worlds is in and of itself another marvel of God’s creation.

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The inscription at the bottom of this painting says: HózhóNáhásdlįį – which is Navaho for “Beauty has been re-established”









*Artwork by Robert Lentz ~ Navaho Madonna


Q. What do you get when you mix up Algonquin with Albuquerque?

A. Alberqwerky


So there you have it!


What does this scene remind you of?

What about when you hear the word December and look into the heart of this photo how could you deny this world was made for a more meaningful purpose than just that which tells you “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!” ?

For me, as an indigenous Christian, this picture sends a powerful message into the depths of my soul and this message is further reverberated out into the reaches of the wide world yonder. You see, Christ did not come to sit on a throne in a palace and tell people what to do – in other words, He did not come to lord it over us as greedy men in their self-aggrandized egocentric lust for power have done for ages gone by and no doubt will still try to do until this world is finally consummated back into the arms of the Beloved – its’ very Creator and Sustainer, whose very purpose in the act of creation was to see the absolute fulfillment of the pinnacle of Love realized in a Way far beyond what even now, in the most enthralling and stirring beckonings of our most blissful and heavenly imaginings we could actually fathom. This is but a glimpse though – for we are not left without – and a glimpse at that can be one of the most enduring ever signs given us inside our hearts of the Great Promise with which our Maker bids us to hold onto at all cost.

I truly believe Christmas is the time to recollect on the purpose for living and that indeed Christmas is indicative universally of a major turning point in Salvation history – namely that of Messianic Fulfilment. Actually, there is a more authentic explanation of the Mayan prophecy as simply the end of one era and the beginning of another and we all could certainly benefit from a good dose of this kind of reminder at this time – for people in the world are too busy too often to even remember the true meaning and reason for there ever being a Christmas in the first place. They too often forget about the major turning point in Salvation history. This makes for the fact that any kind of prompting to remind our forgetful hearts is one we ought to be grateful for. Forget the hysterical gross interpretations the secularists and their buddies want to pin on this very traditional reminder for us to take mindful and heartful stock of our lives. It is but a reminder and could even point to something more wondrous in God’s grand design. The subtle shift in people’s understandings and appreciation of the value of life is what we all should be aiming to endorse as a gift of Providence. This subtlety undergirds a benignly more poignant reality – that Christ’s coming was not only for the people of 2000 years ago and was not left at that in the sense of God seeing no more point in creatively reminding people from time to time in symbolically significant ways of the fact that we have to be prepared. This preparation of our hearts and minds is perhaps more important and should be taken more seriously than what we have been used to. See the interpretation of this Mayan insight from a more indigenous perspective than just what the world would have us believe given the chance, for this perspective says that Friday marks the end of 13 cycles with which time is measured  — each lasting 400 years…with December 21, 2012 being simply the end of an era according to the traditional Mayan calendar and the start of another..While this calendar cycle has “prompted a wave of doomsday speculation across the globe, few in the Mayan heartland believe the world will end on Friday”.

Another interesting anecdote is the fact that the traditional Hebrew calendar which is actually the indigenous Christian calendar measures time similarly – in the Hebrew calendar we are in the year 5700 whilst the Mayan calendar says 5200. Further to this, according to the Hebrew calendar, the 23rd of December (a day or two after the 21st) is the anniversary of the 10th of Tevet which is the day on which the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar invaded and went in to destroy Jerusalem and which resulted in the exile to Babylon. So, according to the traditional calendar, the 23rd December 2012 marks the 10th Tevet in the year 5773! For many this time generally marked a doomsday for them back in the time of this exile.

So what does all of this tell us? It says that essentially we must not hesitate to see how convoluted and mysterious are God’s ways. We cannot presume the world’s explanations of traditional warnings, teachings or tellings to be right because for the most part, they are always going to be wrong. For they want to de-sacralize everything and turn it into none other than sensationalistic hyped up commodified titillation. This is also what they do to the Bible and especially the Book of Revelation – look at all the hype over the years secularists have made out of our sacred narratives in this regard! We must be prepared to link everything together in such a way as to leave no room for the DeVil to steal, twist and destroy that which God has intended for our good. Each and every one of us in some way has a certain degree of soul captivity which needs to be ransomed by God’s grace outworking His Salvation plan for our lives on a very personal level. Christmas is a time for seeing the Way of Salvation opening up before us – seeing how it was and still is within God’s grand plan that He longs to ransom captive Israel – who mourns in lonely exile here – until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice!  For Emmanuel shall come to us – Oh Israel -.


How’s that for food for thought!


Mayan priests pray during a ceremony at the Kaminal Juyu archeological site, in preparation for the Oxlajuj B’aktun, in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. The Oxlajuj B’aktun is on Dec. 21, marking a new period in the Mayan calendar, an event only comparable in recent times with the new millennium in 2000. Amid a worldwide frenzy of advertisers and new-agers preparing for a Maya apocalypse, one group is approaching Dec. 21 with calm and equanimity calm: the people whose ancestors supposedly made the prediction in the first place.





Maya Indian Jose Erenesto Campos prays during a Maya ceremony in honor of the upcoming summer solstice at the Maya archeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa, El Salvador. From Russia to California, thousands are preparing for the fateful day, when many believe a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to an end. In Mexico’s Mayan heartland, nobody is preparing for the end of the world; instead, they’re bracing for a tsunami of spiritual visitors. Even the U.S. space agency NASA intervened, posting a nearly hour-long YouTube video debunking apocalyptic points one by one.





Peruvian shamans perform a ritual against the alleged 2012 apocalyptic Mayan prediction in Lima, Peru, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. The supposed 5 a.m. Friday doomsday hour had already arrived in several parts of the world with no sign of the apocalypse. The social network Imgur posted photos of clocks turning midnight in the Asia-Pacific region with messages such as: ‘The world has not ended. Sincerely, New Zealand.’





Bolivian indigenous people are pictured on Sun island in Lake Titicaca, some 160 km (99 miles) northwest of La Paz December 20, 2012. Hundreds of people come to the island to be part of celebrations to commemorate the end of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, which some believe to be the end of the world, and what indigenous Bolivians regard as the change of an era.

In reality, all of the above understandings borne from an indigenous perspective can be seen as true – especially considering that this kind of visionary narrative is a really good reminder – a reminder that we, at this time of year should be more mindful of what preparation for the Great Return actually means. Christmas is a serious turning point when you consider the enormity of what really took place back in the time and place when…. So here we have, in the modern era from none other than very traditional people, who, much like those 2000 years earlier, again want to bless our world with a saving message – we ought to recollect our hearts and minds to what is important in life. How does the cycle of life bring us fortuitous opportunities for change – bring us closer to the point of radical transformation where things become that were not before? The dawn of a new era was certainly the first Christmas long ago in Bethlehem and in our now time we are reminded yet again, in a not too dissimilar way, of how important it is to welcome God’s providence – that of the Creator of the universe – as the only saving grace there is. Once we understand the depths of that for our own lives, we can then translate this into action that really gives momentum towards fulfilment of positive transformation in the lives of all our relations!


*(Pics and captions courtesy of MSN News Service)

  Kateri Tekakwitha


I watched a replay on EWTN (Pacific Rim broadcast) and well, it was good BUT. Let’s say it was visually stunning and rather like what you see when you watch WYD on TV. But something was missing and I only later, after having watched another series of videos uploaded on YouTube by Anishinabe SC, that what I had an inkling was missing WAS actually missing   80% of the music! That’s one thing you don’t ever leave out of streamings, videos or telecasts of events like this because it detracts from the monumentous occasion of these events. Can you imagine what your wedding day would be like without one or another of the essential ingredients for making this day special?

Anishinabe SC did a really good job of following up the events and basically is a good avenue to watch what you may have missed out on while watching it on EWTN. Perhaps EWTN viewers in the United States and Canada got a better reception which included everything while we in the Pac Rim got the replay with a couple of techy errors that considerably numbed the sound quality and variety. Just look up the Anishinabe SC channel on YouTube to find all the videos from the day.

Here are some of the fabulous photos that were taken by the media agencies who covered the story as it happened:


Pilgrims at St Peters Square, Rome.





Painting of Kateri.





The Finkbonner family – their youngest member, Jake, received a miracle cure from Kateri for a leprosy-like condition deemed medically incurable.





Someone in the crowd holds a beautiful white flower up for Kateri.





Two nuns in prayer for Kateri.





Some of the traditional community back in Kahnawake, Canada, at a solidarity mass for Kateri.





Tapestry of Kateri in St. Peter’s Square, Rome.

Image  Kateri Tekakwitha


I love Kateri! She’s just a marvel in our world today although she has now physically gone Home to the place where her ancestors are. Her life spoke the truth of how inter-cultural dialogue can foster meaningful and healthier relationships between people from different life-experiences. Although as I’ve probably shared with you before, I’m not a Catholic, but I still believe there is much good in what the institutional Church, despite its historical flaws, is doing now and can do in the future. I have to also acknowledge that if it weren’t for its influence in the world, we probably wouldn’t have the university education system we currently have and this is because this system was actually invented by the Roman Catholic Church. So all you people with tertiary degrees better think twice before castigating the very founders of the system that helped you earn your qualifications in the first place!

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this to those with fair hearts – to those with hearts that understand. I’m only saying this to and in view of those whose cynical and unredemptive statements about the founders of the tertiary education system have unfortunately tended to flood the comments sections of a great many electronically published news reports on the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha. Not that university education is everything by the way, but it does demonstrate an indisputable fact – that the university education system we have today has given so many opportunities for people to actually engage in interactive relationships that have the potential to bring about lasting results in the area of positive social transformation and if it wasn’t for the institutional Church inventing universities, we probably wouldn’t have them! One real solid example of how the Western university system has been reconfigured and reconceptualized in the light of indigenous epistemologies is the initiatives taken on by Haskell Indian Nations University, at providing culturally inspirational and relevant tertiary programs for students of Native American background or others who have some link with First Nations. Why I cite this example is because Haskell has been in the forefront of organizing some of the most effective and long-term focused environmental management initiatives right across the Unites States and has helped organise conferences where some of the strategic planning for these initiatives is born. This is truly wonderful because we have an international model-scape from which to draw, in the sense that such ways of educating future generations ought to be locally accessible on an international level and just as relevant to the specific conditions of those respective locales globe-wide. Indigenous people the world over can learn a lot from this pilot initiative by Haskell which is actually a combination of the Western university education system and traditional ways of acquiring and sharing knowledge.

The canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha is for me, something very special. Because as an indigenous person, it speaks volumes to me in terms of how far the institutional Church has come to making account for the injustices to indigenous people done by its complicit participation in the European feudal system. In the last fifty or so years, it has really come along way on its’ journey towards being a much truer advocate for the causes and plights of  those marginalized by the social and political injustices of  world systems that place the value of life (which encompasses the expression of both love and harmony in relationships) beneath the drive to succeed at what ever cost, the exaltation of the uncaring side of self, and the lust for both worldly power and material possessions. Although there are some like Alicia Cook (see previous post) who feel that this institution cannot really right the wrongs of the past just by one act of formal recognition, it must be said that in effect there have been  many historical acts of formal recognition by the institutional Church of indigenous people in a not too dissimilar way; although these, in light of  a less-than-holy historical track-record insofar as dishing out ironic political injustices in accordance with the whims of feudal monarchies is concerned, would appear to be a blatant contradiction. A contradiction in historical terms yes, but again in a rather different light that of the Catholic Church’s redemptive consciousness emerging more fully in the now time, this contradiction is gradually being  ironed out. One of the most obvious but least understood parts of its’ historical act of formally recognising the sovereignty of indigenous people is the fact that this organization holds up (inadvertently or not) an indigenous culture, namely Christianity, as its prime example of how to live right. And further to this  again inadvertently or not it has already canonized many indigenous Christians outside of the United States of America, from its earliest days right up until now.

The issue needing to be more thoroughly acknowledged and understood is, (and this view I would say is shared by Doug George Kanentiio who speaks in accordance with this in the news report on Kateri see previous post),  that the Roman Catholic Church is NOT the indigenous expression of Christianity – it isn’t the Native Christian community that Jesus Christ founded in Israel almost 2000 years ago. Rather, the Catholic Church supplanted this community when Constantine declared Christianity the “official religion” of the Roman Empire. Because of his role as emperor, he didn’t act in accordance with the traditional protocols of the Native Christian community of the time – his political oversight overlooked this and consequently we had  happen historically what has become known in academic parlance as “politicide” followed by “culturicide” of the Native Christian voice in the social re-organization of that time and place. Constantine’s administration had effectively appropriated aspects of Christian culture for its’ own purposes without first consulting the leaders and elders of the communities for protocols on how to co-exist peacefully with Christian culture, a culture that not too long before this, posed a seemingly insurmountable threat to the political expediency of the empire all because Christianity wasn’t culturally compatible with typical Roman institutions. And now, the imperial government was determined to force it into being “compatible”. As a result, the indigenous Christian community voice was repressed altogether, silenced and forbidden from participation in the exercise of determining how this new climate of cultural ‘tolerance’ was going to pan out. This is how the institutional Church was born and how it made compromises with the value system it decided to take on as though it was its own. It was born largely independently of the original Christian community and effectively excluded this community from participation in decision-making because a hierarchy of state-officials had replaced them. This hierarchy was a little later on to become the officially recognised Magisterium of the Church – the canonical (officially endorsed) body of the clergy. How this shaped up had serious implications for traditional or native Christianity.

Now that Catholicism had replaced traditional Christian spirituality in the eyes of Roman imperial hegemony, this meant that the institutional church assumed a place that was in absolute accordance with the reigning political powers of the day and these powers effectively controlled the machinations of this newly constructed intellectual space. Not only was it an educational provider, administering its programs throughout the empire but it was also the political arbitrator for the feudal system. The latter situation is where the compromises spoken of by Doug Kanentiio are most pronounced. Why? Because feudalism is intrinsically at odds with Christianity. The true nature of Christianity is one of consensus decision-making, reciprocity in relationship to all life, and harmonious coexistence with others that emphasizes a love for life, peace, and freedom. The dignity of life as seen in the way God created the whole world inclusive of all who live and breathe in accordance with the laws of nature is at the center of human relationships with each other and all other creatures, and too, in the relationships of all other creatures with each other as well as with humans. A separation away from an intrinsic respect and love for the laws of nature is an act of departing away from the will of God. And many indigenous communities the world over will tell you that Western consumer society has done just that. It has divorced itself from the Divine plan and from living in accordance with the will of the Creator which is why it is pushing the boundaries set by Him through greed and avarice, cultural and environmental devastation and a blatant disregard for the sanctity of life in its copious valorization of vices such as lust, violence, and a general hardness of heart to in order to get what one wants should it involve pushing others out of the way or standing over them to do so.

And because of the historical legacies in this regard, I am so pleased to see that in our turbulent time where our world is being pushed into a direction that reflects more of the dominance of this secular system of disregard for Mother Earth and the sacredness of life, it is just as well, that the institutional Church is turning its heart towards the sun, towards the Son of Man, in a truer understanding and appreciation of what it really means to practice and uphold the integrity of life.

That is why it is important to see the positivity in this step towards more fulfillment on the path of reconciliation between the institutional Church and indigenous Christianity. Kateri is really a symbol of this much needed transition in building a far more compassionate and mutually beneficial relationship between the two. Although I may not really approve of the way some articles on the issue have tended to portray Kateri as Mohawk woman who “converted to Catholicism”, I applaud people for making an effort to share her story widely. That said, there is also a moral obligation for these people to be accurate and culturally sensitive in the way they go about doing this hence my disapproval of the statement that she “converted”. For she was always Christian, as was her own community – in the original sense of the name “Christian” rather than in the sense of the colonial meaning attributed to this name. Because also, from another angle, she didn’t really convert to Catholicism but rather she met the Jesuits and the Catholic Church half way – it’s like the symbolism of the Kaswentha or Two-Row Wampum can show us – it’s a meeting half way between two cultures. I really think her heart was as much with her own people as it was with learning something about another way of thinking or perceiving the world.

Kateri has been named a patron saint of  ecology and World Youth Day (WYD)

To read more about the Kaswentha/Two-Row Wampum, go to

Apologies to readers for the previous format of this page – I know, the layout wasn’t exactly the best so an improvement has been made. You will find a newspaper article on this story in this post and my analysis in the next post.

Kateri Tekakwitha, New Native American Saint, Stirs Mixed Emotions

Religion News Service  |  By Renee K. Gadoua Posted: 10/18/2012 7:46 am


Kateri Tekakwitha


(AP Photo/ Mike Groll)

EDT Updated: 10/18/2012

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (RNS) 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 (Oct. 21).

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.”

Doug George-Kanentiio, also a Mohawk from St. Regis, was brought up Catholic, even serving as an altar boy. But he left the church at 14 when he began to practice Native American longhouse traditions.

“I had a lot of anger at the church at the things they had done to the Native people and the world and the moral compromises they made,” he said.

Yet he, too, will travel to Rome for the canonization.

“It took me a while to begin to adopt a different approach to this, not one based on history, but compassion for a young woman who was determined she was going to emulate the suffering of Jesus Christ,” George-Kanentiio said. “That passion is remarkable.”

Then there’s Alicia Cook, who grew up on the Onondaga Nation, married a Mohawk and now lives at St. Regis, also known as Akwesasne. She has always practiced longhouse religion and has no interest in Tekakwitha’s story.

“The church has been telling us for years we’re heathens,” Cook said. “The white man has hurt us enough. They intruded on our land here.”

Those viewpoints reflect the diverse, seemingly contradictory reactions to the young Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism more than 300 years ago.

Some see it as a story of commitment and strength and an affirmation of Native Americans’ place in the Catholic Church. Others view it as the result of the excesses and arrogance of colonialism, the suppression of Native American tradition and culture, and the remnants of a missionary tradition that forced its narrow understanding of faith on others.

Tekakwitha was born in 1656 to a Mohawk father and an Algonquin/Christian mother in a Mohawk village in what is now Auriesville, N.Y. When she was 4, her parents and a younger brother died in a smallpox epidemic. The illness left her scarred and nearly blind.

She was baptized by a Jesuit missionary in 1676. Some Mohawks tormented her for her conversion, but she committed herself to Christianity and a life of virginity, practicing extreme acts of religious devotion, including self-flagellation. She fled to a Mohawk/Catholic village in what is now Montreal, and died there in 1680 at age 24.

Calls for her recognition as a saint date to her death, and the official church campaign began in 1931. According to the Vatican, prayers to Tekakwitha for her intercession were responsible for the inexplicable cure of a 6-year-old Native American boy in 2006 in Washington state who developed a flesh-eating virus after an injury.

The church typically requires verification of two miracles for sainthood. But in 1980, Pope John Paul II waived the requirement for Tekakwitha’s first miracle, citing the difficulty of confirming details of incidents said to have occurred hundreds of years ago.

Tekakwitha is the first Native American named a Catholic saint.

She was born during a time of independent Indian nations interacting with the Dutch and French, said Allan Greer, a McGill University professor who studies early Canada and colonial North America and the author of “Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits.”

“It’s a time of tremendous turmoil, with epidemic diseases, warfare, new technologies being available through trade with Europeans,” Greer said. “It’s kind of a holocaust of the Native Americans by infections from the Old World, and millions die.”

In 1667, the Iroquois Confederacy — including the Mohawks — made peace with the French and Canada; as a condition, the Mohawks had to accept Jesuit missionaries in their villages.

Central New York’s history is closely tied to the Jesuits. Missionary Simon Le Moyne, namesake of the Catholic college, first visited the area on August 17, 1655 — the year before Tekakwitha was born. From 1656 to 1658, seven Jesuits lived at the Sainte Marie mission near Onondaga Lake, fleeing after learning the Iroquois planned to kill them.

The Jesuits never hid their goal of converting souls, Greer said. And while contemporary readers may see racism and arrogance in the accounts, the Jesuits were genuinely trying to understand Iroquois culture, he said.

Tekakwitha was not coerced or victimized by the Jesuits, he said.

“She is an active and aggressive cross-cultural explorer,” Greer said. “She is in a way trying to capture their secrets. She was on a mission to get access to what empowers Europeans in a spiritual sense.”

Mitchell reads the Jesuit accounts in their historic context, and credits the Jesuits with promoting Tekakwitha’s story: “The Jesuits were able to document and report it. We had no one to document it and tell the story.”

Cook, meanwhile, is teaching her children and grandchildren Native traditions and encouraging them to learn to speak Mohawk. But she has no hostility toward Native Americans who practice Catholicism or revere Tekakwitha.

“I wouldn’t expect others to have my beliefs,” she said. “We all have our own teachings. I have my own basket to carry.”

(Renee K. Gadoua writes for The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y.) 

*Article courtesy of the Huffington Post.