Today Kateri Tekakwitha was officially canonized. It’s a little odd that she is only officially canonized now, since there are several churches and at least one convent already named St. Kateri Tekakwitha, but, you know, you have to appreciate that the Catholic Church has never really discouraged its folk elements. Most sources are declaring her the first indigenous saint from North America; this is highly debatable. There’s also an Orthodox Saint Peter the Aleut; my Canadian friends seem to classify Aleuts as something other than First nations, but this is not something I know a whole lot about, so I’m not going to take a stand. I would hazard a guess he gets left out of the Vatican’s press releases on account of that whole “not being Catholic” thing (his martyrdom is actually said to have taken place at the hands of Jesuits). There’s also Juan Diego. He’s definitely indigenous, but he’s also Mexican. Apparently we’re not counting that as “North America” anymore.
Both the US and Canada want to claim her as their own; she was born in New York and died in Quebec. In reality neither nation existed yet and neither would have given her citizenship rights if it had for quite some time. So it’s all kind of a moot point.
But I don’t care that much about any of that; none of that is what I’m excited about. Why did I spend the day eagerly reading news on the canonization? Because she’s in my dissertation! So while some marked this day by praying and some by rejoicing (and a few by protesting), I spent it googling and saving stuff to Zotero. And man, I have to say, the media did not let me down as far as giving me gems to talk about. From calling her the “Pocahontas of the Catholic Church” to the AP talking about her exchanging the “totem for the crucifix” (btw, that’s totally a dissertation chapter title now, thanks AP) it was like they were just showering me with gifts.
It’s not common for anyone to see the topic of their dissertation in the news. It’s less common in my field than some. It’s unlikely to happen again for me. I can’t quite describe what it feels like. It’s kind of like how suddenly at Halloween folklorists become the cool kids everyone wants to interview. Granted no one has called to interview me about this yet… It’s a different kind of excitement though. It’s the permission to go ahead and be a know-it-all. I’m not saying I’m not one usually, but right now I can back it up.