Between 1884 and 1885 members of Native North American tribes sent twenty-seven letters of petition to Pope Leo XIII in support of Kateri Tekakwitha’s cause for canonization. The petitions were published in 1916 along with documentation related to the canonizations of Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brébeuf, seventeenth century Jesuits martyred while ministering to Native Americans. As a collection, the petitions illustrate the demographic and geographic range of Native Catholic devotion to Kateri in the late nineteenth century and document the growth of Native Catholicism at a time when Catholic efforts to evangelize Native peoples had been affected by the exclusion of Catholics from President Grant’s Peace Policy. To explain the continued growth of devotion, a close reading of the first biographies of Kateri by Jesuits Claude Chauchetière (ca. 1680–1695) and Pierre Cholenec (1696) reveals that Native people were co-participants in the same saint-making effort the petitioners attempted. The early presence of Native people in the narratives, when combined with the petitions, is evidence of a Native-based independent oral tradition that paralleled the early stories of her life and enabled the growth of devotion to Kateri prior to her cause’s formal introduction in 1932.


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pp. 25-44
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