In 2012 Kateri Tekakwitha became the first North American Indian to be canized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, an event that American Indian Catholics have awaited for generations. Saint Kateri, kwn as the patroness of the environment, was born in 1656 near present-day Albany, New York, to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father. Tekakwitha converted at age nineteen to Christianity and took a vow of perpetual virginity. Her devotees have advocated for her sainthood since her death in 1680. Within historical Catholic writings, Tekakwitha is portrayed as a model of pious, submissive femininity. Indian Pilgrims moves beyond mainstream narratives and shows that Saint Kateri is a powerful feminine figure who inspires decolonizing activism in contemporary Indigeus peoples' lives. Indian Pilgrims examines Saint Kateri's influence on and relation to three important themes: caring for the environment, building community, and reclaiming the Native feminine as sacred. In Indian Pilgrims , Michelle M. Jacob brings a Native feminist perspective to the story of Saint Kateri. The book demonstrates the power and potential of Indigeus decolonizing activism, as Saint Kateri's devotees claim the space of the Catholic Church to revitalize traditional cultural practices, teach and learn Indigeus languages, and address critical issues such as protecting Indigeus homelands from environmental degradation. The book is based on ethgraphic research at multiple sites, including Saint Kateri's 2012 canization festivities in Vatican City and Italy, the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation (New York and Canada), the Yakama Reservation (Washington), and the National Tekakwitha Conferences in Texas, North Dakota, and Louisiana. Through narratives from these events, Jacob addresses issues of gender justice-such as respecting the automy of women while encouraging collectivist thinking and strategizing-and seeks collective remedies that challenge colonial and capitalist filters.
Michelle M. Jacob is an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of San Diego. She served as the founding director of the Center for Native Health and Culture at Heritage University on the Yakama Reservation. She is the author of Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing and has published articles in a wide range of academic journals. Jacob is a member of the Yakama Nation.