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Lily near the Blue Line

March 4, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

"Once about a time," as my children used to call my stories, some 356 years ago, a baby was born in Mohawk/Adirondack country. Her birth was of some importance, thus giving us more than a sketchy record of her life. Although life for her was not always a happy one, she rose above it and memories of her remain alive to this day. She is about to become one of the most famous to have shared the land in which we live today.

Her life began in the village where she was surrounded by family and friends. Unfortunately, when she was 4 years old, the family contracted smallpox and she lost her mother, father and brother to the disease. Somehow she survived, but was disfigured with the pox marks on her face for the rest of her life. She, filled with sadness, was taken in and raised by a strict uncle and aunt

One of the pleasures that found its way into her situation was a love of nature. Being somewhat a shy and solitary child, she found peace in the surrounding woodlands of that day. The Cayudatta Creek flowed into the Mohawk River near her home and she found a spring in the nearby sand hills. She made many trips to that spring to get water, often meditating under a large tree. The spring has been named after her today and, it is believed, that she was baptized a Christian with its waters.

It was a practice of her people to "summer" in the great woods, today's Adirondacks, north of the Mohawk. In all probability, when they journeyed there for the hunt or to search out the shale beds and native materials to make tools, baskets and weapons, she went along. Much of her time was using her skills to make fine beadwork and baskets to give to others. Later in her life, when she left her valley home to join with others in Canada, she journeyed through the Adirondacks to reach her new home.

Our Adirondack/Mohawk Indian girl is now going to open up her native lands to the world. Her chosen name is Kateri and is now known as, "Kateri Tekakwitha - The Lily of the Mohawks." In October, she will become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. It has been a long journey for Kateri to fulfill what she cultivated in her short life on earth. And thousands will be making the journey to the Adirondack/Mohawk country to honor her.

Kateri was born of a Mohawk Indian chief and an Algonquin Christian mother, who had been captured at Three Rivers and forced to live with the Mohawks. After her parents' deaths, Kateri chose a life of helping others and not following many of the usual Indian ways. It made her somewhat of an outcast, especially when she was baptized as a Christian. Wishing to devote her life to Christ and his teachings, when well-meaning friends and relatives invited a suitor to court her, she ran off and hid in the woods until he left.

Her desire to live a life of chastity, not a normal practice among her people, caused others to turn against her. Her uncle was not happy with her choices in life so she decided to join other Christians in Canada. Three other staunch Christians made secret preparations for her escape, and in 1677 they took the path "heading through the bush" to Canada. Facing the dangerous trip, they were pursued but her uncle was unable to catch them.

Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 at Auriesville, was baptized in Caughnawaga on the hill near Fonda in 1676, and fled to Canada in 1677, where she led a life of penance and caring for others until her untimely death from disease on April 17, 1680. Upon her death, the ravishes of disease and disfigurement left her "shining with beauty." Many have been healed in her name since that day.

Kateri was baptized on April 18, 1676, Easter Sunday. She received her First Communion on Christmas Day in 1677 and she died during Holy Week in 1680. She led a life following the teachings of Christ and caring for others. It is altogether fitting, then, that she becomes "The Lily of the Mohawks,"-Saint Kateri.



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