Monday, October 22, 2012

Kateri Tekakwitha a "squaw"?! Her father "pagan"? Nun in toy headdress?!

I spent some of the last 24 hours following news coverage of the canonizaton of Kateri Tekakwitha.

As I noted yesterday, for Native people that are Catholic, Tekakwitha's canonization is a complex and important moment. Thousands of Native people were in Rome for her canonization. Among the thousands is Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg. His article, titled 'It's the same great spirit', published in the Winnipeg Free Press captures the complexity of Tekakwitha's canonization.

Kinew wrote:

During his remarks, the Pope noted that although Saint Kateri "worked, faithful to the traditions of her people," she "renounc[ed] their religious convictions." 


Talking to many of the indigenous people at the canonization ceremony, many of them residential school survivors, I don't think this is what they have in mind. They speak of embracing Catholicism, but also of practising their traditional spirituality. It is precisely this pluralistic approach that made the inclusion of smudging and indigenous language so important to them. It is that same reason that motivated so many of them to wear their traditional clothing to Vatican City. 

As Chief Littlechild says: "We can have both spiritual beliefs, although it's the same great spirit and the same Creator."

This morning, Kinew posted this Instagram on Twitter:

His photo of the Italian newspaper and the ones I'm sharing below point to another dimension of the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha: stereotypes.

The photo of this nun, in a toy headdress that she apparently (hopefully) didn't recognize as a stereotypical toy, was on major newspapers and online news sources. This one is from NBC Australia:


That photo was also used at "Global Post: America's World News site." A photo of her and another nun is also being used. I saw it early yesterday on the website of The Daily Gazette, a Syracuse newspaper, but as the day went on, it appeared in a lot of stories. Here it is at the New York Times:

The photo was used in by the The Chronicle Herald in Canada, The Star Phoenix in Arizona,

Huffington Post/Italy carried the photo, too, and has "Squaw Santa" as one of its tags (categories) for the article (small print at bottom)

The Daily Mail in the UK ran this photo, with a Getty Images watermark on the lower left corner:

See the man to the left of the nun, also holding an image of Tekakwitha? He seems to be looking at the nun. Maybe he is wondering why the photographer wants to take a photo of a nun in a toy headdress rather than an actual Indigenous person.

This photo, also at the Daily Mail, blows me away. Is that guy dressed like a conquistador?! Update, 9:15 AM, October 22, 2012: He is a member of the Vatican's Swiss Guard. They dress like that everyday. Thanks to TVA for providing that information. For more info, see the Vatican's The Roman Curia: Swiss Guard

Check out "pagan" in the caption for this photo, also from the Daily Mail story:

If I learn of any comments from the media, in which they critique their use of the nun-in-toy-headdress photo, or a critique of their use of "pagan" or "squaw", or, explanations of what photos they chose and why, I'll provide an update. If you read anything related to that, please let me know so I can share that information here.


TVA said...

Debbie --

I think the guy in the second to last picture is a member of the Vatican's Swiss Guard. They look like conquistadors everyday.

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks, TVA. I'll add a note along with the photo.