St. Gregory’s Revives Honor Dance For Newly Named American Indian Saint

Jul 5, 2013

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Credit Catholic Online

After the death of Father Vincent Traynor, an honorary member of several tribes in Oklahoma, the honorary dance to honor the then Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, became of thing of the past.  With her being named the first Native American saint last October, Abbot Lawrence at St Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, thought it was high time to revive it.

“Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656. She was of the Algonquin Mohawk people and was born in what is now New York State. When she was 4 or 5 years old, her parents died in a small pox epidemic,” said Abbott Lawrence.

Saint Kateri’s mother was a Roman Catholic and she never forgot those beliefs.  She was adopted by an uncle, who like her father, was a chief. 

“She eventually came in contact with some Jesuit priests there and began to as best she could to practice her new Christian belief,” said Abbott Lawrence.  It was not appreciated by her adoptive family, leading to hardships in her short life.

“Due to her very deep faith in Christ, she is still remembered today for being a great model of service and virtue” said Abbott Lawrence.

Abbot Lawrence was present in St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City last October for her canonization. He attended with the help of the Bureau of Indian Missions

“I really believe that this was an important event not just for the native world but for the entire church and the people that the church ministers too. I know being acquainted with several of what we call ‘Kateri Circles’, this is something that native people have prayed for, longed for, for a couple of hundred years now, ” said Abbot Lawrence.

“It is a real recognition that native peoples play an integral role in the life of the Church.”

“The honor dance was something that I, as Abbot, really wanted to do this year,” said Abbot Lawrence.  “In 1974 the monks installed a statue of then Blessed Kateri on our campus to honor all native peoples. So we had an honor dance on July 14th, which is her special day in the year.”

“So in this first year since her canonization, the honor dance will begin on Sunday on July 14th with a mass at 3pm in the Abbey Church,” said Abbot Lawrence.  A ceremonial blessing of the four winds will happen outside the Abbey Church.

Everyone in the congregation will be invited to walk outside to the other side of campus to their plaza with statue of Saint Kateri.  “At that point, a novena or a series of nine days of prayer in her honor will come to a close,” said Abbot Lawrence.

A gourd dance will commence around 4:30, followed by dinner and a grand entry will take place at 7 p.m. with intertribal powwow and dancing until 10pm.  Head Gourd dancer is Edwin Marshall, Head Singer is John Kimble, Head Man dancer is Kyle Reans, and Head Lady Dancer is Robynn Rulo, who is also Miss Indian Oklahoma.