Maryland's Piscataway Indians honor St. Kateri, their 'northern sister'
Published: October 26, 2012
CHAPEL POINT, Md. (CNS) -- To the Piscataway Indians of Maryland, the newly canonized St. Kateri Tekakwitha is not just the first Native American saint -- she is a member of the family. On a wooded hillside overlooking the Potomac and Port Tobacco Rivers in southern Maryland, about 25 members of the Piscataway tribe gathered in a clearing, before a statue of the new saint, their saint. During the ceremony on the grounds of St. Ignatius Parish in Chapel Point, Billy Redwing Tayac --the chief of the Piscataway Indian nation -- stood before the gleaming white statue of the Native American saint. Holding up a feather, he led the crowd saying, "St. Kateri, pray for us." Tayac, a lifelong member of St. Ignatius Parish, said he often came to that place, to pray before the statue of St. Kateri. "We are the direct descendants of the Piscataway people who were baptized at the bottom of this hill. I wish to raise my voice personally in honoring St. Kateri," he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. During the ceremony, the chief also noted, "We give thanks today, and acknowledge one of our own as a Catholic saint. It makes us equal in mankind. It's a blessing for us." Held Oct. 21, the same day Pope Benedict XVI canonized Kateri at the Vatican, the Maryland ceremony included Native Americans offering an honor song, with chants and drumming celebrating the new saint. Tayac lit a calumet pipe and blew smoke on the statue, signifying the prayers they were offering to God, seeking the new saint's intercession in heaven. Parishioners and guests later joined the Native Americans in rhythmic dancing around the statue of the new saint, nicknamed the "Lily of the Mohawks," in honor of her father's tribe. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin.
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