The Story of Kateri – Part 2

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The Story of Kateri – Part 2

This story is continuation of the story about the
first Native American Saint, Kateri Tekakwitha, canonized October 21, 2012.
She was Mohawk and lived from 1656 to 1680.


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As I mentioned, mom was asked to create another Kateri sculpture for the Jemez Pueblo Church. However, she was having trouble this time, for some reason the clay was cracking. The piece was near completion and it was already her second attempt in creating the sculpture. Mom couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working out for her this time. I sensed a feeling of a little heaviness with mom, I looked into her eyes, then I felt it was okay to ask her, “ Mom, maybe I should create the rendering of Kateri this time.” Then mom said to me, ”I’ve created Kateri several times and we are Blessed to have one of her in Rome, I think maybe this time it’s meant for you to create Kateri for our Pueblo Church.” I felt honored. We thought it would be wonderful if she could be created from the natural Jemez clay, so that’s what I used. At first we thought she would be a one of a kind clay piece, however, when I was closer to completion we agreed it would be best to cast her into bronze but keeping her looking like she was made from clay.

The first photo is of the different images of Kateri I found that helped guide me. The up close image on the far left is said to be the earliest rendering of her, it is thought that this maybe the most accurate likeness of her. Like mom’s sculpture, the Tekakwitha group wanted her to hold the cross in one hand and have her other hand open. They also wanted a light shawl draped on her. We thought she should wear her traditional Mohawk regalia. I did some research on the internet but I couldn’t find good images of simple traditional regalia that she may have worn back in her day.

Then a week before Christmas I received a phone call from my good friend, Joey David, who I went to school with at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. He happens to be Mohawk and lives in upper NY State on the Mohawk Reserve. He was calling to let me and Althea know that he and his wife and 2 boys were coming out to visit my family for Christmas. You see both of Joey’s parents recently passed and when Joey and I were at IAIA he would come home to Jemez with me so he spent time around my family and my parents adopted him.

Joey said to me “I need to come see your parents, I miss mine SO much! I need to be around their energy while we’re all still together, and I need to bring my family so my boys will know what grandfather and grandmother energy feels like.” And so they came and we shared a wonderful Christmas! They wanted to stay a little longer but weather had them leaving a little sooner.

Now the Universe and Spirit have amazing timing for sure. I told Joey and his wife, Natalie, that I was near completion on a sculpture I started back in November of Saint Kateri. And that I needed some guidance on how her regalia should look and the designs that would be appropriate to place on her regalia. The second photo is of the drawing that Joey left for me. He said they are the traditional designs of the Mohawk people and Kateri was of the Turtle Clan. Joey called the design with the turtle the Sky Dome and the two symbols on top are germinating seeds, they represent growth. He also drew a simple flower design as well as how her traditional moccasins would have looked. I asked them about the length of her dress on my sculpture, “is that the right length?” Natalie replied, “I have my traditional Mohawk dress, why don’t I put it on so you can see what you’re trying to sculpt.” She put on her dress and I did need to make adjustments, the dress on my sculpture was too long.

It was all perfect timing, it was exactly what I needed to complete the Kateri sculpture. I told Joey and Natalie, “its Beautiful that the finishing touches come from both of you in person. You came all this way to see Mom and Dad, to nourish yourselves with their Loving energy, but also unknowingly you brought me a beautiful gift as well. The gift of knowing what I needed to finish this rendering of one of your people, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.”

Kateri-Saint-0The three Turtle designs I placed on her dress also represent the Holy Trinity.

This piece is 24 1/2” tall.

As I mentioned in the beginning, she was intended to be a clay original that would be my gift to the Pueblo Church. They wanted her to be taken back and forth from the Church to the Plaza for Ceremonial Feast Days. We realized that in clay she would be too fragile to be transported back and forth, for this reason she is now rendered in Bronze.

Because she is a Saint, we thought there shouldn’t be any limits on her castings, and it doesn’t feel proper to have her represented in galleries, so she will not be in any galleries. We thought it may be best to keep her open for public church acquisitions, as well as for private collections. We’re sure the Universe and Saint Kateri’s Spirit will give guidance to the different places she will be welcomed. I pray that I have done my best to honor her and to create her as she would want to be portrayed.

-Joe Cajero