The statue of an Indian maiden gazes across a New York landscape, the features calm, composed, giving no hint of the brutal existence of the real person it represents. She was Kateri Tekakwitha, and she will become the first Native American saint when the Vatican canonizes her later this year.
Echoes from her life over 300 years ago still resound in the hills and valleys where she lived and died. And also far beyond, owing to the work of Ellen H. Walworth (1858 – 1932) who more than one hundred twenty years ago researched and wrote the story of the Mohawk maiden’s life.
The thought of an Indian girl growing up surrounded by unspeakable violence and cruelty, yet winning for herself such titles as The Lily of the Mohawks and The Genevieve of New France, inspired her to research in the records of two centuries earlier every detail relating to her “Indian heroine”.
And the fact that the story had unfolded in the hills and valleys of Walworth’s native State was added motivation. She wanted everyone to know the history surrounding the rare and beautiful character of “this lily of our forest”.
Walworth even went so far as to walk the actual trails Kateri Tekakwitha followed in her escape to the “Sault”, and to go to the valley of the Mohawk, to “a quiet forest nook, where a clear, cold spring gurgles out from the tangled roots of a tree”.
Connected “with this spring is the story of a short girl-life, pure, vigorous, sorrow-taught”, long before the State had either “shape or name”.
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