Seeking Sainthood for Kateri Tekawitha

No items found.
Robert Betancourt Jr.
April 25, 2024

Photo: Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, NM, by Dieterkaupp, Wikimedia Commons

A Brief History of the Kateri Conference for first Native American Saint

The Kateri Conference was started in 2000 as a means of uniting the tribes in order to get Kateri Tekawitha elevated to sainthood. The yearly themes climaxed into the final declaration of sainthood in 2012 after a second miracle, which involved a person being healed from flesh-eating bacteria.

The organization has grown from its start in New York State. Kateri lived there from 1618 to 1635 with the Jesuits, and she converted to Catholicism. Kateri had smallpox and did not see well, hence she was given the name “Tekawitha,” which means “she bumps into things.” When she died, her smallpox scars went away, and the little Catholic community thrived.

The organization, which is headquartered in Bolton, Louisiana, now has five regions, of which Region 5 is the largest. It spans from New Mexico to the Pacific and up to Alaska. Region 5 is the largest due primarily to the Indian Removal Act of 1828 by President Andrew Jackson, which forced the tribes westward.

This, in turn, created 117 federally recognized tribes in California alone. The Eastern Band Cherokees, who are hosting this year’s conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, fled to the mountains in Appalachia and returned 40 years later to finally get their own reservation.

This year will see the possibility of the reuniting of the two tribes since the Indian Removal Act of 1828. The Oklahoma Cherokees now have a part in construction of CANOO vehicles in Pryor, Oklahoma, with the Pawnee Nation. It is hoped that some of these vehicles will be at the conference. For more information, visit