Indian Pilgrims

Indigenous Journeys of Activism and Healing with Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

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In 2012 Kateri Tekakwitha became the first North American Indian to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, an event that American Indian Catholics have awaited for generations. Saint Kateri, known as the patroness of the environment, was born in 1656 near present-day Albany, New York, to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father. Tekakwitha converted to Christianity at age nineteen and took a vow of perpetual virginity. Her devotees have advocated for her sainthood since her death in 1680. Within historical Catholic writings, Tekakwitha is portrayed as a model of pious, submissive femininity. Indian Pilgrims moves beyond mainstream narratives and shows that Saint Kateri is a powerful feminine figure who inspires decolonizing activism in contemporary Indigenous peoples’ lives.

Author Michelle M. Jacob examines Saint Kateri’s influence on and relation to three important themes—caring for the environment, building community, and reclaiming the Native feminine as sacred—and brings a Native feminist perspective to the story of Saint Kateri. The book demonstrates the power and potential of Indigenous decolonizing activism, as Saint Kateri’s devotees claim the space of the Catholic Church to revitalize traditional cultural practices, teach and learn Indigenous languages, and address critical issues such as protecting Indigenous homelands from environmental degradation. The book is based on ethnographic research at multiple sites, including Saint Kateri’s 2012 canonization festivities in Vatican City and Italy, the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation (New York and Canada), the Yakama Reservation (Washington), and the National Tekakwitha Conferences in Texas, North Dakota, and Louisiana. Through narratives from these events, Jacob addresses issues of gender justice—such as respecting the autonomy of women while encouraging collectivist thinking and strategizing—and seeks collective remedies that challenge colonial and capitalist filters.
 

“An excellent new contribution to Native and Indigenous studies, and the author’s innovative approach promises to open up a powerfully important set of new conversations about the colonial and settler-colonial relationships between Native Christians and women who are producing counterhegemonic acts of resistance to Christian colonial traumas within the space of the Catholic Church.”—Andrew Jolivette, author of Research Justice: Methodologies for Social Change

“An important contribution to both Native feminism and Native Christianity.”—Andrea Smith, author of Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances

Indian Pilgrims focuses on Saint Kateri as the heart of worldwide Indigenous efforts to heal communities from the destruction of colonization, to care for Mother Earth, and to emphasize the Indigenous feminist views, and it highlights the importance of Indigenous activism as a vehicle for healing. This book represents a new view, a pioneering cultural depiction of a Catholic saint as a crucial core of Indigenous strength and healing.”—Gayle Skawen:nio Morse, editor of the Journal of Indigenous Research
Indian Pilgrims
200 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2016 Hardcover (9780816533565)
Ebook (9780816534579)

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