Pope Benedict XVI will soon canonize the first Native American, bringing cheer to some 680,000 Native Catholics in Americas.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as "Lily of the Mohawks," was a blind woman from the Mohawk tribe. She forsook her village and an arranged marriage and lived in a convent in what is now Canada.
The pope will declare her a saint in three months. The recognition hopefully would heal some historical scars of European subjugation of the natives.
The canonization ”authenticates who they are as a people," said Father Mark Steed, who runs the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine.
The last Catholics from the Mohawk Valley to be canonized were three French Jesuits who traveled there in the 17th century and were tortured to death by the Mohawks they were seeking to convert.
The Europeans had taken smallpox to the valley - an epidemic that killed Kateri's father and mother in 1660 and left their four-year-old child's face scarred and her eyesight damaged. She was given the name Tekakwitha - "She who bumps into things."
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