Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits

By Allan Greer | Go to book overview

6
Catherine
and
Her Sisters

ARRIVING WITH HER BROTHER-IN-LAW IN THE AUTUMN OF 1677, TEKAKWITHA PREsumably went straight to her sister’s longhouse for a dish of sagamité and a warm welcome. This dwelling at Kahnawake was to be her home for the two and a half years that remained to her on earth. The sister (never named in the sources) had a cooking fire and a portion of the longhouse for her nuclear family, and that became the focus of Tekakwitha’s life as a producer and consumer of material goods. Her work in the fields and her handiwork belonged, in the first instance, to that family and she shared the food cooked on its hearth. All around were other domestic units, which together made up the extended family of the longhouse society. The new physical surroundings in which Tekakwitha found herself—the bark walls, the pots and baskets, the corn hanging from the rafters—would have had a basically familiar look, and many of the longhouse residents would have been people she had known back in Gandaouagué before they had left for the St. Lawrence. Among the familiar faces was that of her mother’s old friend, Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo, the ranking matron in the longhouse.

Tegonhatsiongo immediately took the newcomer in hand, bringing her along on the daily round of women’s work, which at that time of year centered mainly on the gathering of fuel for the coming winter. Chauchetière’s biography concentrates on the religious side of their developing relationship:

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