Today, with Kateri’s success I am proud to be a Mohawk. Our people have responded to the pleas for donations that will be used to host the 73rd Annual Tekakwitha Conference. Food Sales, garage sales, auctions, football and hockey pools, and bingos as well as two Councils (Akwesasne Mohawk Council and St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council) that matched each other’s donation. Sr. Kateri Mitchell, the members of the Planning Committee co-chaired by Bernice Lazore, a longtime hard worker for Tekakwitha Conferences, Caroline Peters, working with the youth at Conferences, and Terry Steele, longtime player of Kateri’s life and with the Fonda Shrine all need a big thank you. The Conference will be in Kateri’s homeland. We are ready to welcome all those people coming.
For many years the Mohawks have raised money and have gone to the Conferences everywhere and participated by helping and explaining Kateri. It is not easy for our brothers and sisters from the western part of the country to fully understand our Iroquois culture, our homeland and then the Canadian aspect of her life. We shared our prayers and singing in Mohawk, even our dances at Pow-Wows. We have had several Conferences in the East so that people could easily visit Kateri’s people and her burial sight and monument in Kawhnawake. I believe that we are rewarded for all the years of helping knowing that it was for our Kateri and for nothing else. I dragged my family to so many conferences during my vacations. They went with me because they knew that it was our duty to help other Nations learn more and love Kateri like the Mohawks love her. We made many friends that we met year after year and the sad part is so many are not here anymore to see the Canonization but they are with her in Heaven.
Using the titles, Former Mohawk Chief and Public Relations Chairperson, I have been able to get into places that normally require a lot of white tape. I was able to get a delegation to Ottawa, Ont into the Papal Embassy, where the Pope’s Canadian Representative lives. The Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana received us on April 17th, the Feast Day of Blessed Kateri. We expected his usual 11 minute visit and he kept us over an hour and even took us to the chapel where the Pope prays when he is in Canada. We prayed together, he prayed and blessed us.
I had the opportunity to elaborate on our direct link with Blessed Kateri’s times in so many ways that we still practice, especially our basketry which is still done the same way by using the raw material from Mother Earth, like the splints from the Black Ash Trees, pounding, dressing it, lacing into ribbons and the many forms with sweetgrass. Sweetgrass being the most fragrant and lasting, as well as when burnt with tobacco when giving our thanksgiving it gets the Creator’s attention when the smoke reaches Him. I took many baskets from Akwesasne to show the Archbishop, all were made by our basketmakers. I asked him, if the Pope had a choice which one might he choose. We would give the Pope that basket at the Canonization and he chose the one that Sheila Ransom made. “This one, he would like this one” he said. Only after the choosing did the men tell him that Sheila’s baskets are in museums and magazines and won many ribbons for them. So, His Excellency was happy and he made a wise choice. His Excellency told us that he was in Rome when the question of the miracle and her canonization was brought up. He said that he was happy to meet us and that we will be seeing him in Rome for sure.
I invited the Governor of NY and he has already been booked for July 18. Many people are coming to the conference, the clergy, deacons, bishops and the Chiefs from the two Mohawk Councils so that we could acknowledge them for their generosity.
According to the agenda, Sat. July 21 will be the busiest day starting early until night. Buses will take half of the people to Fonda and the other half will go to Auieresville and then change sights by 1:00 pm and then all will end up at Auriesville for a mass at the shrine, supper and pow-wow.
The trip to Rome is coming up wonderfully and at the last count 450 people have registered with pass ports ready to go. There are many tours while we are there. We will all arrive in Rome the day before the Canonization. The 21st of Oct. will be our REWARD DAY, for never forgetting Kateri. There will be a special Mass the day before and a Thanksgiving Mass the day after for all the Indian Nations and it is a couple of blocks from the Vatican. Many leave immediately after Mass to come home while the rest will go on for a longer tour.
Our Creator will be busy pointing us out to our ancestors that are with Him and Saint Tekakwitha because after so many generations of praying Indians for Kateri’s sainthood our great-grandparents might not recognize us. We will be standing tall for Tekakwitha, who was so humble. We are truly blessed to be alive to witness this Holy event when so many have gone to the Creator.
I have been to Maniwake, Quebec, an Algonqujin Reservation, in early June and I invited them to go to Rome with us and they were pleased and some are going and they are coming to the Conference in Albany as well. At that moment I was grateful that I had been involved since 1980 with the Conferences and that I had been to Rome for the Beatification, so I could easily answer their questions and concerns about Rome etc. The descendants of Kateri will be flying together (Algonquins and Mohawks) and absorbing the events and scenery.
Alma Ransom served multiple terms as Elected Chief for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, served on the Executive Board of NCAI, had a career working for Employment Canada and for the last 32 years has worked with the Kateri Tekakwitha Conference and its efforts to have Takakwitha canonized. She and her husband Orlo will be traveling to the Vatican in the Fall to witness, with many hundreds of other Natives from around the world the making of a Saint.