Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Mohawk Valley Indian Notes

Anniversary of The Lily's Death

Sketch of Life of Indian Maid, Kateri Tekakwitha.

From the Amsterdam, NY, Semiweekly, Recorder-Democrat, April 23, 1915.

Saturday, April 17, the anniversary of the death of Kateri Tekakwitha, more commonly called the Lily of the Mohawks, makes the following brief sketch of the life of the Indian maiden of interest to old Amsterdamians as well as to the rising generation, not to mention the Tekakwitha club bridge players.

Ga-na-wa-da (on the Rapids), near the site where Fonda now stands, was a small palisaded Indian village. In this interesting village of Caughnawaga most of the life of that most interesting of Iroquois women was passed. The mother of the young Indian maiden was a Christian Algonquin captive and her father a brave warrior and much of a leader among his people. The exact location of the birthplace of the Lily is not known, but it is generally supposed that it was at a little village on the Auries Creek, about a mile from where Auriesville now stands. She was born in 1656. When she was but four years of age, the settlement was attacked by that most dreaded of all plagues-small pox-and her father, mother and two brothers were laid low, leaving this Indians child of tender years alone in the world. Her Christian mother died with a prayer on her lips and it can be thus seen that Kateri Tekakwitha was born with the seeds of Christianity sown deeply in her heart. She was spiritually minded and her devotion to the cause of Christ was remarkable, particularly for one born and reared in savagery.

After the death of her parents, she went to live with her uncle, a close friend of Arendt Van Curler, whom he sometimes visited. When she was 12 years of age three Jesuit fathers were entertained at her uncle's home. It was from these three fathers that she first learned Christianity. Their visitation, with which she was deeply impressed, left a lasting influence upon her life. From that time forth, she had no other thought than to worship her Master.

The Mohawk valley never produced a purer, loftier character than Kateri Tekakwitha. Her life speaks not only to her race, but to all Christian people. She made no public confession of her faith until she was 18 years of age and from that time she became a regular attendant at the little bark chapel at Caughnawaga, called St. Peter's. The following Easter, 1676, became the event in her life which she had anxiously awaited-baptism. The ceremony that day was one of the most impressive ever held. The choir was composed of Indian boys and girls with rich melodious voices. Father deLamberville, said to be the holiest missionary from Canada, performed the ceremony. At this time she was given the name of Katherine. Temptations and evil she met on every side, but she remained firm. Her ardent faith brought joy and happiness to her soul, but she was obliged to undergo cruelty and hardships on account of her devotion and extreme piety. She was stoned and persecuted and brought to the meanest drudgery, but she bore all complacently.

After a time, however, he life became unbearable and she pined to escape from the thralldom in which she was entangled. She wanted to reach the St. Lawrence country, where she knew freedom awaited her. Then came the husband of her foster sister to her village. He was Hot Ashes of the Oneida nation and despite his religion, a power wherever he went. Through connivance with him and Father deLamberville, by whom she was baptized, she left home during a time when her uncle was in Schenectady.

Kateri Tekakwitha and her companions arrived in Montreal in the autumn of 1677, when she was 21 year old. She was received at once in the home of an old friend of her mother, with whom her sister and husband were stopping. Here she led a life of true devotion, subjecting herself to severe penances and she was given the title of Li Bonne Catherine. Her first communion took place on Christmas Day and the second on the following Easter. She was soon admitted into the fraternity of the holy Family of which much was expected of it members.

Her great desire was to become a nun, and Father Cholenec well understood her deep religious faith and her value to the cause of Christ. It was through his efforts that she, on March 25, 1679, on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin, took the holy vows that brought her into full communion with the Sister of Charity. Her life henceforth became rigid and austere in the utmost extreme. The Christian Indians of today look upon her as interceding in Heaven in their behalf.

However, a life of such severe devotion began to tell upon her frail body and in the spring of 1680 she began to grow more feeble in health and strength and a slow fever gradually sapped her young life away. On Tuesday in holy week, a marked change was noticed in her condition-and it was a change for the worse. At this time, the Viaticum, the last blessed sacrament was administered to her by Father Cholenec. She sand slowly and easily as if falling asleep on the seventeenth day of April 1680, at the age of 24 years. Her body was interred in the cemetery at the foot of a tall cross and later was removed to the sacristy of the church of St. Francis Xavier du Sault at the present village of Caughnawaga, Ontario, about five miles up the St. Lawrence from where her first residence in that section was located. At Ossernenon, now called Auriesville, at the shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, a monument has been erected to Father Joques, Rena Goupil and Kateri Tekakwitha and at the time of the annual pilgrimages to the shrine, due respect is paid the name and memory of Kateri Tekakwitha.

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