The Joanne Shenandoah Trio sings at the Vatican for Witnessing the Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha

What a wonderful sight to see: the Joanne Shenandoah trio singing in the foreground with the white-robed priests behind them. Above, in the background, that soaring edifice covered in the gold captured from the Native American mines through the lives and bodies of the thousands of indigenous peoples whose efforts still decorate the cathedrals all over Europe. What a great full circle they have journeyed. Hieronimus & Co. helped to fund the trip with a contribution to the Hiawatha fund. Listen to our interview with Joanne Shenandoah and Doug George-Kanentiio on 21st Century Radio.


Witnessing the Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha

The Mass for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha in the Vatican.

Click the photo to see a larger image.

by Doug George-Kanentiio

The canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha took place over two days. The first part was her official recognition along with six other candidates at a massive open air event in the front of the Vatican facing the eastwards direction. Everyone should know that St. Peter's was built on the ruins of a former church which had stood for many centuries but was gradually wearing down and decaying. With the influx of wealth brought to Rome by the Spaniards and Portugese as a result of their conquest of parts of the New World the Vatican was able to begin construction of the largest Christian edifice in the world with the artists Michelangelo and Raphael playing key rolls. In the year 324 ACE the Roman emporer Constantine ordered a sanctuary to be built on the tomb of St. Peter, the first head of the infant Catholic Church. I have long wondered why he was considered the singular leader when Yeshua (Joshua), or "Jesus" in Greek, had a dozen male apostles around him as assistants along with a few women, the most prominent of which was Mary Magdeline. Should not have the early Christians taken note of how Yeshua delivered his teachings and caused them to be preserved? Was not his work so serious and important as to warrant such a council?

Apprently, by the time the second generation had passed since Yeshua's death at the hands of the Romans, and not the Jews, there was a decision to place the administration of Christianity in the hands of one man which would inevitably lead to corruption and excesses far beyond the actual instructions of the prophet.

But by the time of Constantine the Roman example eclipsed the simplicity of former times and the deal was made to blend Christianity into Roman political and administrative methods. So the papacy grew in physical power and with its influence and wealth erected monuments, palaces and churches, again in the Roman way. So a church was erected over Peter's grave. This stood for over 1,000 years but new found wealth necessitated new buildings and the best artists were hired, with resources from enslaved Native peoples, to build the church of all churches.

This is what greets the visitor to the Vatican on the west bank of the Tevere River. It is truly impressive in its size and meant to impress on the visitor the insignificance of their being before the might of the Catholic Church. As a Mohawk it fails to do so. A grove of redwoods along the Pacific coast or the strand of virgin eatsern white pines near Lake George does more for the individual spirit. Yet there are amazing scupltures on top of the arches which flank St. Peter's and inside the doors is the Pieta, carved by Michelanglo and a true masterpiece in the history of human expression. If St. Peter's existed for no other reason than to house the Pieta it is well worth the visit.

Given the importance of the events marking the sainthood of the seven people huge crowds from around the world were expected and they cam by the tens of thousands. The largest delegation were from the Phillipines, a nation which is heavily Catholic and takes its name from the very weird King Phillip of Spain. Yet they were in Rome to celebrate and they did so with banners and cheers to honour their candidate, a seventeen year old boy from the 17th century who died in the service of the Church. Kateri's supporters were as enthusiastic and vocal. Many came from the American southwest including delegates from the Rio Grande pueblos, Hopis from Arizona and Crees from Alberta. By far most of the Natives were from the Mohawks with hundreds flying in from Kahnawake and Akwesasne. Sister Kateri Mitchell was acknowledged at the October 22 celebratory mass with a standing ovation for her super human work in making the event happen. It was well deserved.

Joanne, Leah & Diane Shenandoah begin the Mass for Sister Kateri in the Vatican by singing one of Joanne's songs in Mohawk. Click the photo to see a larger image.

Listen to a clip of the song "There Will be Peace" (Let there be peace in our minds continually, all around the world, and now let our minds be one) by Joanne Shenandoah.

At the open air mass Pope Benedict lead the services and when he acknowledged Kateri a loud, happy roar came from the crowd. Some estimates place the number of people at the Vatican plaza at over 80,000 which the many hours long wait to get there would confirm. But the Mohawks werwe there with many wearing traditional dress, a couple of men wore Kustoweh's and others waved the purple and white Haudenosaunee flag. It was a perfect day climatically with warm temperatures and a clear blue sky. The mass took three hours to complete as each candidate was elevated to sainthood. A brief summation of their lives was said and then the rituals of the service. Every one of the seven would have their own specific mass the next day with Kateri selected as warranting her service inside the Vatican itself.

The next day the Vatican was open for the individual services. The crowds were far less in number which was expected as the masses were dispersed around the city. Kateri's mass began around noon after the one for the German saint. It was held at an altar across from the baldaccchino (canopy) a wooden structure carved by the master artist Bernini and said to be directly above St. Peter's tomb. Joanne Shenandoah, Oneida, was summoned to a podium by Sister Kateri and asked to begin the services with a song in Mohawk she composed and performed a week earlier for the Dalai Lama at the One World Peace Concert in Syracuse.

Listen to a clip of the song "There Will be Peace" (Let there be peace in our minds continually, all around the world, and now let our minds be one) by Joanne Shenandoah.

The Joanne Shenandoah Trio performed a week earlier for the Dalai Lama at the One World Peace Concert in Syracuse. Whoopi Goldberg said,"I've opened for the Dali Lama before, but never for Joanne Shenandoah! Isn't she amazing!!"