A statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be certified a Saint by the Catholic Church, at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec City.

First Native American Cleared for Sainthood by Vatican


The Vatican today announced that the Mohawk-Algonquin woman born in 1656 and known as Kateri Tekakwitha has been deemed worthy of sainthood by the Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI has signed the decree recognizing a miracle performed by Kateri, and she will therefore be canonized at a ceremony sometime in the future.

According to the biography at katerishrine.com, Kateri's father was a Mohawk chief and her mother was Algonquin (Catholic News Service specifies that her mother was also a Christian); her parents and brother died of smallpox when she was four, and the disease left her with facial disfigurements and impaired vision. She was consequently given the name "Tekakwitha," which means "she who bumps into things." Her uncle, who was chief of the Turtle Clan of Mohawks, adopted her. Though he is described as "bitterly opposed to Christianity," he eventually relented, and Kateri was baptized in 1676 at the age of 20. She died four years later. The name "Kateri" is a derivation of Catherine, taken at her baptism, according to Wikipedia, as a tribute to Catherine of Siena.

Also according to Wikipedia, the process of Kateri's canonization began in 1884; Pope Pius XII declared her venerable in 1943, and Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1980. She was at that time the first American Indian to be beatified.

Earlier this year, a segment on NPR looked at the process of certifying Kateri's miracle, which was then underway. Young Jake Finkbonner of Ferndale, Washington, had become afflicted with the flesh-eating bacterium strep. It was consuming his face, and he was expected to die—in fact, a Catholic priest had administered last rites. Meanwhile, a grassroots prayer campaign had started, and children across the country were praying for Kateri to save Jake, who is of Lummi descent. Kateri was chosen because, as the story goes, her facial disfigurements healed upon her death. Jake's priest, Reverend Tim Sauer, explained that the affinities between Jake and Kateri made her a logical choice. "No. 1, we're talking about two young people," Sauer told NPR. "No. 2, we're talking about two people who come from Native American ancestry. And No. 3, we're talking about a person who herself suffered from a disease that disfigured her face." After Jake defied all doctors' predictions and survived, the Catholic Church initiated the process of certifying his recovery as a miracle caused by Kateri's closeness to God.

Also certified for sainthood was Blessed Marianne Cope, who spent 30 years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries ministering to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



beaver's picture
Submitted by beaver on
This is just an ongoing battle between the Catholic church, the Mormon church and various protestant denominations to win Indian converts.

shotwell77's picture
Submitted by shotwell77 on
Kateri might become the first Roman Catholic saint, but the Episcopal Church canonized the first Native American saint back in 1985. He is St. David Pendleton Oakerhater, whose Cheyenne name means "Making Medicine." He was a warrior, a Sun Dancer, a Fort Marion prisoner of war, and a ledger artist.

smartphoenixnavajo's picture
Submitted by smartphoenixnavajo on
Every woman who lived through the american holocaust is a saint. The vatican was part of the american holocaust against native americans. Now isn't it like the devil granting horns now ? The nerve.

globe's picture
Submitted by globe on
This is a great news bulleting that tells the world that American Indians are saintly too! Actually, Juan Diego in Mexico is the first Indigenous saint. So we have two now, great! We do have some catching up to do, there may be as many as 10,000 Roman Catholic saints already. Of course the holiest and most saintly people of all are found in Europe, especially western Europe. At least the Indians are finally getting up there among the saints!

peace's picture
Submitted by peace on
What great news for Indian Country! Yes, the past has been harsh, but the root of evil cannot be placed on a "color" of people, but the hardness of the "human heart." If we continue to "hate" we can easily become the very thing (hate) we fight against..... This is long "overdue" So let us get up and keep pushing forward to strive toward the untity of "PEACE."

ppmickey's picture
Submitted by ppmickey on
Peace, I totally agree with you. What you had to say makes so much sense I couldn't say it better. Peace to you.

Nanu's picture
Submitted by Nanu on
Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was cannonized by John Paul II in Mexico City July 20, 2002. Native Americans are indigenous people from ALL over the Americas, not just US and Canada. Indian Country doesn't stop at Euro-American borders...