Kateri Tekakwitha

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)

She is the first Native American to be beatified.  She was the daughter of Kahenta (Flower of the Prairie), a native Algonquin taken on a raid to New York.  Her father was a Mohawk chief, Kenhornkwa (Beloved).  The family lived in Osserneon, what is now Auerieville, New York.  Kateri had a brother named Otsikehta.  When she was four years old, her parents and brother died from a small pox epidemic.  Although she survived the epidemic, she was left with her face permanently disfigured and her vision impaired.  Kateri was adopted by her uncle and two aunts. She lived a secluded life, doing house chores and remaining indoors most of the time because her inability to tolerate bright sunlight.

The first missionaries arrived at the request of the Mohawks, who wanted the “Black Robes”, the Jesuits. Upon arrival they were assigned to stay in the same dwelling in which she was living with her family.  After three days they left to visit other Mohawk settlements with no apparent affect on Kateri.  Upon the arrival of other Jesuit missionaries, the Mohawks converted to Catholicism and moved from the village to a mission with other Christians.  When she made known her desire for baptism, her uncle opposed.  Finally he consented but with the stipulation that she would remain in the village after baptism.

A two-year instruction period was the rule, but an exception was made for her because of her reputation of integrity.  She was baptized on Easter, April 5, 1676 and given the name Catherine (Kateri in Iroquois).  Everyone rejoiced with her.  However, the rejoicing disappeared because Kateri attempted to keep Sunday Holy by not working.  People judged her as lazy.  Others ridiculed her strong devotion to Mary and the rosary.  Her celibate lifestyle caused intense hostility.  Her aunts attempted to trick her into marrying a young warrior.  Her uncle urged others to molest her.  One aunt attempted to destroy her reputation by insisting there was an incestuous relationship between her and her uncle.  A young man attempted to kill her with a tomahawk.  Teasing, insults, mockery and harsh treatment were common in her daily life.  Despite this she remained cheerful to everyone.

Kateri decided to leave the village upon hearing about the life of a catechist, who came to the village and lived on a mission.  While her uncle was away, a few men helped her to escape.  When he returned, he left with a loaded gun in pursuit of his niece.  He gave up the chase and returned home.

Kateri arrived at the mission in the autumn of 1677.  She resided with a friend of her mother, Anastasia and with direction from a Jesuit missionary, her spiritual life continued to develop. That Christmas, over 18 months after her baptism, she made her first Communion.  Everyone who knew her, thought her deserving of becoming a member of an organization, Confraternity of the Holy Family, reserved for outstanding Catholics.  On Easter Sunday, she entered the confraternity and received Communion, the second time in her life.

Prayer became important to Kateri.  Early writings disclose that at 4:00am each morning, no matter the weather, she was in church and remained several hours in prayer. Although Kateri lived an ordinary life, she wanted to dedicate herself to God.  She was permitted to make a vow of perpetual virginity on Mar. 25th, 1679.  A deep friendship was developed with a widow, Marie Therese. They became spiritual companions, encouraged one another in prayer and penance, and conversed about God and spiritual matters.

Kateri became seriously ill during Holy Week of 1680.  It was customary for persons who desired to receive viaticum to be brought to church: however, because of her holiness, viaticum was brought to her.  She died Wednesday, April 17th, 1680 at the age of 24.  Those who saw her after her death described a beautiful change in her features in that her facial disfigurement disappeared entirely.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and has the distinction of being the first Native American beatified by the Catholic Church.

Her name Tekakwitha has been interpreted, “that which or who puts things in order” or “one who advances and who casts something before her”.  As Kateri, she became known as a lily among thorns, the Lily of Mohawks, and “The Most Beautiful Flower that ever bloomed for the Indians.”

Related Resources

Kateri Tekakwitha - Mohawk Maiden Kateri Tekakwitha – Mohawk Maiden

This book is from the famous line of “Vision Books” of saints that are one of the most popular and well-told series of stories for young people. This is the inspiring story of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a holy young Indian woman who was converted to Christianity by the French missionaries led by Saint Isaac Joques during the 1600s. Kateri’s mother was a very devout Christian woman who, after being captured by the Iroquois, was not allowed to baptize her daughter. Kateri’s whole family died of smallpox, and she was adopted by a chief who was very anti-Christian. When she was baptized and converted by the missionaries, Kateri became ostracized from the tribe. With the help of the priest, she made a daring escape, and thereafter lived a life devoted to God. Denied her desire to become a nun, she declined marriage and lived as a single woman with deep faith, offering her sufferings and life to Christ. She died at the age of twenty-four and is affectionately known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.” Kateri was recently beatified by Pope John Paul II. Ages 9-15 See also: See our entire Vision Books Series. Saints of the Church – Teacher’s Guide / Vision Books

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha - Comicolor Saints Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha – Comicolor Saints

This comic book-style coloring and activity book tells the life of Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha. Once they’ve finished coloring, kids will have a completed comic book to enjoy. This coloring book also features cut-out trading cards, activities, and games. Ideal for ages 6-8.


  1. Dee  •  Sep 17, 2010 @10:37 pm

    She has been canonized a saint. Your website should be updated to reflect the change. Great background though.

  2. admin  •  Sep 18, 2010 @12:27 am

    Thanks for letting us know, Dee. We’ve updated her to “Saint here.”

  3. Kathleen Cummings  •  Oct 11, 2010 @5:08 pm

    When exactly was Kateri canonized? I cannot find any verification on that.

  4. admin  •  Oct 12, 2010 @4:43 pm

    Hi Kathleen, I found the following on a website called Lives of the Saints, but could not find anything to verify her canonization at the Vatican website. They only show that she was beatified in 1980.

    “In 1943, Pope Pius XII admitted the cause of beatification, approving the decree on the heroism of her virtues. Saint Kateri had appeared to some Polish prisoners during World War II, telling them she was named a patron of their country and brought about their release. They described to the Jesuits of their own country, the young Indian girl whom they had all seen in their vision, and learned who she was — Kateri, Lily of the Mohawk, the Canadian Indian girl who had attained sanctity very young and died at the age of 24 years. She was beatified in 1980, canonized in 1991.”

  5. Bobby  •  Jan 26, 2011 @7:02 pm

    Sorry but Kateri has not been canonizied. The parish that I work at is named after her. http://www.blessedkateriparish.org

  6. Whitney Newsom  •  Feb 1, 2011 @6:43 pm

    I have also scoured the web for proof of her canonization, and cannot find it.

  7. Diane  •  May 4, 2011 @7:15 pm

    There is a small typo in this lovely, concise story: “…during Holy Week of 168. It…”
    It should read 1680, not 168.

  8. admin  •  May 17, 2011 @7:26 pm

    Thank you Diane, we have corrected it!

  9. PRAY - Rosary  •  Jul 16, 2011 @3:36 am

    Hi! I would like to show you PRAY, a free and open source application to: * learn how to pray The Holy Rosary, The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy ; * meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary listening to Bible readings; * meditate with beautiful depictions of the mysteries; * count the prayers using an on-screen virtual Rosary; At SourceForge: http://pray.sourceforge.net/

  10. admin  •  Sep 20, 2011 @2:42 am

    Hello, thanks for sharing. :D

  11. Mia Velarde  •  Oct 4, 2011 @1:14 am

    What is she the patron saint of?
    When was she canonized(I just need the day and month)?

  12. nimming  •  Dec 29, 2011 @4:09 pm

    Next year, 2012, she will be cannonized

  13. GT+  •  Jul 5, 2012 @4:01 am

    Blessed Kateri is scheduled to be canonized in Rome on October 21st, 2012. Thanks be to God!

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