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Dancers offer multi-sensory treat at Kateri Pow-Wow

July 6, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

FONDA-If you stand in the right place during the annual Kateri Pow-Wow at the right time, the smell of something burning can waft from the dance circle all the way to the front entrance.

"It's white sage," said Harry Young of the Metis tribe, who also is known as Chief Gray Owl. "We use it to purify."

Dancers walk through the smoke as they enter a ceremonial circle to perform dances and rituals in honor of the festival, veterans, and many other reasons. As they march around the circle, drums beat loudly, echoing around the vendors stall's and the woods. The dancers proceed in a slow march, some chanting with the beat.

Article Photos

Roseanne Salinas of Mexico City performs an Aztec dance at the Pow-Wow. The event was open to all tribal cultures. (The Leader-Herald/Arthur Cleveland)

The dancers are part of the festival at the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine on Route 5. The event continues through Sunday.

"Uncle" George Duross of Johnstown has been coming to the Kateri Pow-Wow for 10 years.

"Everybody is so friendly here," Duross said, waving around. "There is a sense of comaraderie here. People look forward to coming here every year."

The Pow-Wow has several events happening every day, ranging from a daily opening ceremony and dance to a "candy dance" where kids wait until the music stops before rushing to grab at handfuls of fallen candy.

The Pow-Wow allows people of all tribes to come, letting Mentis, Seneca, Tuscarora, and more to participate. Part of the events at the dance circle were even Aztecs preforming traditional dances.

Roseanne Salinas of Mexico City, one of the dancers, was also selling Jade jewelry and was happy to explain the history to anyone who asked, describing how while the Spanish came looking for gold, that the Aztecs considered jade more valuable than gold.

What makes this year special is that the woman who the shrine is dedicated to will be made a saint.

In February, Pope Benedict XVI of the Roman Catholic Church announced that Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Indian who was born in New York in 1656, would be the first Native American ever accepted as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Ross stated that, like many natives, felt "really good" about the canonization.

"We were delighted. Part of my genealogy runs through her family," Young said. "I'm proud of it."

Leona Gonzales, who plans on going to Rome in October to see the canonization ceremony, is ecstatic.

"It's a very important time in our lives," Gonzales said. "This is something me and my husband have prayed for."

Losing both her parents and much of her own eyesight from smallpox when she was 4 years old, Kateri was adopted by her uncle, giving her the name Tekakwitha, which translates to a joke about her poor eyesight. Kateri was a convert to Christianity and was ostracized from her tribe for it. She eventually escaped to Quebec, where she died at the age of 24.

Kateri Shrine is one of three shrines dedicated to her, with a major shrine at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kahnawake, Quebec.

Admission to the festival is $6 for adults, $5 for people older than 60, and free for 5 and under.

Arthur Cleveland is the Montgomery County reporter. He can be reached at



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