This post cribbed almost entirely from Metafilter
The 17th-century figure will make history when the Vatican canonizes her later this year, although the joy among North America’s indigenous tribes will be mixed with some painful historical memories.
No other “Indian”, as the original inhabitants of the United States and Canada are widely, but wrongly, called, has made sainthood. Following centuries of being dispossessed, caricatured, or ignored, aboriginals will soon have the unusual experience of appearing in a positive light.
Mark Steed, the Franciscan friar heading the Kateri Shrine on the banks of the Mohawk River, said that after more than 30 years of working among First Nations, he is happy to see them win this boost.
“They were put down, bypassed,” Friar Mark, a soft-spoken but steely tough 71-year-old, said. “So I think when you have a repressed people, any star in their crown is a plus.”
For many First Nations, especially among the Mohawk and other Iroquois tribes straddling the U.S.-Canadian border, Kateri’s sainthood was overdue decades ago.
Reverence of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha transcends tribal differences. Indigenous Catholics identify with her story, and have taken her to heart. They have made her so much their own that they depict her in their art wearing their own traditional clothing.
The only negative in all of this is that she looks less Mohawk with each new depiction, as though her cultural background is irrelevant. The opposite is true: Káteri Tekahkwí:tha was raised with—and defined by—traditional Mohawk beliefs, and it was her understanding of them that led her to embrace a new faith, not so much as a rejection of her traditional beliefs, but as the fulfillment of them.
In recent decades, scholars like David Blanchard, K. I. Koppedreyer, Daniel Richter, Nancy Shoemaker, and Allan Greer, among others, have wrestled this subject away from the domain of more devotional writers, bringing a more critical insight into the cultural world of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha and the Rotinonhsión:ni converts of Kahnawà:ke.
The time has come for the Rotinonhsión:ni to take it to the next step by repatriating the story of the Mohawk maiden and liberating it from the “saint among savages” theme that was attached to it so long ago.
Catherine Tekakwitha, who are you? Are you (1656 - 1680)? Is that enough? Are you the Iroquois Virgin? Are you the Lily of the Shores of the Mohawk River? Can I love you in my own way? I am an old scholar, better-looking now than when I was young. That's what sitting on your ass does to your face. I've come after you, Catherine Tekakwitha. I want to know what goes on under that rosy blanket. Do I have any rights? I fell in love with a religious picture of you. You were standing among birch trees, my favorite trees. God knows how far up your moccasins were laced. There was a river behind you, no doubt the Mohawk River. Two birds in the left foreground would be delighted if you tickled their white throats or even if you used them as an example of something or other in a parable. Do I have any right to come after you with my dusty mind full of the junk of maybe five thousand books? I hardly even get out to the country very often. Could you teach me about leaves? Do you know anything about narcotic mushrooms? Lady Marilyn just died a few years ago. May I say that some old scholar four hundred years from now, maybe of my own blood, will come after her in the way I come after you? But right now you must know more about heaven. Does it look like one of these little plastic altars that glow in the dark? I swear I won't mind if it does. Are the stars tiny, after all? Can an old scholar find love at last and stop having to pull himself off every night so he can get to sleep? I don't even hate books any more. I've forgotten most of what I've read and, frankly, it never seemed very important to me or to the world. My friend F. used to say in his hopped-up fashion: We've got to learn to stop bravely at the surface. We've got to learn to love appearances. F. died in a padded cell, his brain rotted from too much dirty sex. His face turned black, this I saw with my own eyes, and they say there wasn't much left of his prick. A nurse told me it looked like the inside of a worm. Salut F., old and loud friend! I wonder if your memory will persist. And you, Catherine Tekakwitha, if you must know, I am so human as to suffer from constipation, the rewards of a sedentary life. Is it any wonder I have sent my heart out into the birch trees? Is it any wonder that an old scholar who never made much money wants to climb into your Technicolor postcard?
--Leonard Coehn, Beautiful Losers