Sunday, October 21, 2012

Move over Pocahontas

Generally I try to avoid two saints in one month (& there is already a saint queued up in less than a week) but Lily of the Mohawks is brand new saint this week & it seemed petty not to cover her.  Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere in the americas (north, south, central, wherever) would have to take quite the circuitous route not to trip over a story of an indian princess.  Even then, I am 99.9% sure you would wind up smack in the middle of an indian princess story not-on-purpose.  Indian princesses jump off cliffs, marry the wrong man, betray their people, save their people, sometimes they just abandon their people.  In short they are very busy people themselves.

& up until last week I would have said Pocahontas was the most famous in the world.  If you have never seen the Disney movie (& I haven't), you would still have to be living under a rock not to know who Pocahontas was.  Or rather, who history says she was.  Or might have been.  Whatever, it doesn't matter.  This is not a post about Pocahontas.  That being said, let us all take a moment to listen the Peggy Lee's Fever, which mentions Pocahontas.

Back to our saint: Tekakwitha was born to a family of mixed heritage (one parent was a Mohawk, who are part of the Iroquios language group, the other was an Algonquin, who have their own language, Algonquin; I might be misremembering, but I don't think these two groups always got along that well), but was orphaned at a very young age.  Much of her family died of the same thing that wiped out so many people in the 17th century New World:  smallpox.  It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, she was left dependent on an uncle who had a great distrust of christians in general & priests in specific.  First, let me speculate this might be why said uncle was around to care for the much afflicted (scarred & partial blinded by small pox scars) little girl.  Second, guess what kind of indian princess listed above, not that Tekakwitha was a princess-princess, but guess what kind of princess she was.  If you guessed the kind that left her people you would be right.  As a young woman, she ran away to be baptized, then ran away again (I don't entirely follow that one myself) to become a nun.  Then she died of tuberculosis, another disease I am guessing her unreasonable uncle did not catch.

So, that sums that up.  Except that on her deathbed, witnesses say her scars disappeared & she became beautiful (they don't say anything about her putting a on a little weight, so she must have been beautiful à la heroin chic).  & of course later she started performing miracles, pretty much isolated to those who prayed to her so that probably helped determine who got the credit.  Anyway.  Tekakwitha is a saint now, better known as Lily of the Mohawks

Which brings me back to Disney.  It is a very familiar story; see Therese the little flower for the sickness in childhood, the tuberculosis in adulthood & so-forth, or countless others for the whole running away thing, or, or, or.  Seriously, it is a familiar story, but now we have a native american heroine.  Sigh.

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