At least 2,000 Mohawk tribe members have gathered in Rome today in anticipation of the canonization of one of their own, a 17th-century Mohawk maiden named Kateri Tekakwitha. On Sunday, she will be the first Native American ever canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Her path to world renown wasn’t an easy one. Two scientifically inexplicable miracles had to be investigated and approved before the Vatican would officially recognize her as a saint. According to the Associated Press, the second miracle happened when a dying boy of Lummi tribe descent, Jake Finkbonner of Ferndale, Washington, recovered from a flesh-eating strep bacterium infection in 2011 after children across the U.S. prayed for Kateri to intercede with God and save his life.
But long before then Kateri suffered greatly for her love of God as did the tribe of her mother, a band of Algonquins who had converted to Christianity. The following story comes from the research of her distant cousin Norm Léveillé, genealogy websites, and accounts of her life.
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Chief Sachem Carolus Pachiniri had led his Weskarini band of Algonquins for most of a decade. The French called his people the Little Nation, and a French fort and Jesuit mission offered protection. When marauding Iroquois attacked, Algonquin braves and French soldiers would fight back while families sheltered in the fort. But a surprise attack around 1652-1653 left many defenders dead, and women and children enslaved...