Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Feast of Saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf, and Companions
(the "North American Martyrs" or "Canadian Martyrs")






The stories of the eight North American Martyrs -- who are called the Canadian Martyrs in the Great White North -- are tales of masculine fortitude taken to its extreme. Some were Jesuit priests, some were laymen. They were martyred at different times and in different ways. But all are Frenchmen who emulated Christ by giving their very lives to save souls.

I'll first list the men, and the dates and places of their martyrdom. Then I will fgive some background and tell their stories, focusing on St. Isaac Jogues whose experiences come down to us in his own words.


René Goupil,
a deaf surgeon
September 29,
1642
near Auriesville, New York,
United States
Fr. Isaac Jogues October 18,
1646
near Auriesville, New York,
United States
Jean de Lalande,
layman
October 19,
1646
near Auriesville, New York,
United States
Fr. Antoine Daniel July 4,
1648
Teanaostaye, near Hillsdale,
Ontario, Canada
Fr. Jean de Brébeuf March 16,
1649
Sainte-Marie-au-pays-des-Hurons,
Midland, Ontario, Canada
Fr. Gabriel Lalemant March 17,
1649
Sainte-Marie-au-pays-des-Hurons,
Midland, Ontario, Canada
Fr. Charles Garnier December 7,
1649
near Collingwood, Ontario, Canada
Fr. Noël Chabanel December 8,
1649
Sainte-Marie-au-pays-des-Hurons,
Midland, Ontario, Canada


Background: Though Spanish Jesuits had been in Florida since the mid-16th century, they hadn't made their way farther north than present-day Virginia. Then, in the very early 17th century, the French had established "La Nouvelle France" ("the New France") in what is now the Northeastern United States/Southeastern part of Canada and most of the land East of the Mississippi all the way South to present-day Louisiana, with a great tract of the East Coast where the English settled excepted. And French Jesuits followed.

The Northern part of New France was populated, in part, by members of Ithe Iroquois Confederacy, or the "Five Nations" -- people from the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations (later, the Tuscarora joined them, making the league "the Six Nations"). Also on the land were the Huron and various Algonquin nations, and it was to them that the Jesuits first preached. And it was they who welcomed and traded with the French. And the Iroquois didn't like it one bit.

Now, imagine the problems! All in one place were various Indian nations and their different alliances and animosities, the French who came to settle and build wealth, Jesuits who came to preach and baptize, language differences, differences in folkways and mores, diseases for which various groups had no immunity -- it was a powder keg.

It was to this dangerous world that Fr. Isaac Jogues went. Born in 1607 and ordained in 1636, he had only been a priest for a few months when he heard Fr. Jean de Brebeuf tell of his experiences in the New World. Fr. Brebeuf described cruelty, torture, hunger, extreme discomfort, and other hardships, but this only inspired Fr. Jogues. He left for New France the very year he was ordained.

He spent six years among the Huron people, and things went relatively smoothly. But there were troubles looming: the problem of diseases that were new to the Huron caused them to become suspicious of "the black robes." This problem was compounded when some of the Indians met up with English and Dutch settlers to the South -- Protestants -- who told them that the Jesuits were so much trouble that they'd been driven out of Europe.

And the Five Nations were still angry.

In 1642, Fr. Jogues was on his way to Quebec City with René Goupil, a man named Guillaume Couture, and some Huron catechumens and Christians when they were captured by a band of Mohawks. He describes what happened next:

Last of all, William Couture was dragged in: he, too, had set out from Huronia with me. When he saw all routed, he had, with the rest, taken to the woods, and being a young man, as gifted in body as in mind, had by his agility left the enemy fiir behind; but when he looked around and could see nothing of me, — "Shall I," said he to himself," abandon my dear Father a prisoner in the hands of the savages, and fly without him? — not I." Then, returning by the path which he had taken in flight, he gave himself up to the enemy. Would that he had fled, nor swelled our mournful band! — for, in such a case, it is no comfort to have companions, especially those whom you love as yourself. Yet such are the souls who, though but laymen, serve God and the society among the Hurons, with no views of earthly reward. It is painful to think even of all his terrible sufferings. Their hate was enkindled against all the French, but especially against hira, as they knew that one of their bravest had fallen by his hand in the fight. He was accordingly first stripped naked, all his nails torn out, his very fingers gnawed, and a broad sword driven through his right hand. Mindful of the wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ, this pain, though most acute, he bore, as he afterwards told me, with great joy.

When I beheld him thus bound and naked, I could not contain myself, but, leaving my keepers, rushed through the midst of the savages who had brought him, embraced him most tenderly; exhorted him to offer all this to God for himself, and those at whose hands he suffered. They at first looked on, in wonder, at my proceeding; then, as if recollecting themselves, and gathering all their rage, they fell upon me, and with their fists, thongs and clubs beat me till I fell senseless. Two of them then dragged me back to where I had been before; and scarcely had I begun to breathe, when some others, attacking me, tore out, by biting, almost all my nails, and crunched my two fore-fingers with their teeth, giving me intense pain. The same was done to Bene Goupil, the Huron captives being left untouched...

......[T]hey bore us off, as captives towards their own land. We were twenty-two, three had been killed. By the favor of God our sufferings on that march, which lasted thirteen days,* were indeed great ; hunger and heat and menaceSj the savage fury of the Indians, the intense pain of our untended and now putrifying wounds, which actually swarmed with worms. No trial, however, came harder upon me than to see them five or six days after approach us jaded with the march, and, in cold blood, with minds in nowise excited by passion, pluck out our hair and beard and drive their nails, which are always very sharp, deep into parts most tender and sensitive to the slightest impression. But this was outward ; my internal sufferings affected me still more, when I beheld that funereal procession of doomed Christians pass before my eyes, among them five old converts, the main pillars of the infant Huron Church. Indeed I ingenuously admit that I was again and again unable to withhold my tears, mourning over their lot and that of my other companions, and full of anxious solicitude for the future...

...On the eighth day we fell in with a troop of 200 Indians going out to fight and as it is the custom for savages when out on war parties to initiate themselves, as it were, by cruelty, under the belief that their success will be greater as they shall have been more cruel, they thus received us. First rendering thanks to the Sun, which they imagine presides over war, they congratulated their countrymen by a joyful volley of musketry. Each then cut some stout clubs in the neighboring wood in order to receive us. After we had landed from the canoes they fell upon us from both sides with their clubs in such fury, that I, who was the last and therefore most exposed to their blows, sank overcome by their number and severity, before I had accomplished half the rocky way that led to the hill on which a stage had been erected for us. I thought I should soon die there; and so, partly because I could not, partly because I cared not, I did not arise. How long they spent their fury on me He knows, for whose love and sake it is delightful and glorious thus to suffer. Moved at length by a cruel mercy, and wishing to carry me to their country alive, they ceased to strike. And thus half dead and drenched in blood, they bore me to the scaffold. Here I had scarce begun to breathe when they ordered me to come down to load me with scoffs and insults, and countless blows on my head and shoulders, and indeed on my whole body. I should be tedious were I to attempt to tell all that the French prisoners suffered. They burnt one of my fingers, and crunched another with their teeth; others already thus mangled they so wrenched by the tattered nerves, that even now, though healed, they are frightfully deformed. Nor indeed was the lot of my fellow sufferers much better.

But one thing showed that God watched over us, and was rather trying than cutting us off. One of these savages, breathing naught but blood and cruelty, came up to me, scarce able to stand on my feet, and, seizing my nose with one hand, prepared to cut it ofi" with a large knife which he held in the other. What could I do ? Believing that I was soon to be burnt at the stake, unmoved, I awaited the stroke, groaning to my God in heart, when, as if stayed by a supernatural power, he drew back his hand in the very act of cutting. About a quarter of an hour after he returned, and, as it were, condemning his cowardice and faintheartedness, again prepared to do it; when again held back by some similar unseen hand he departed. Had he carried out his design my fate was sealed, for it is not their custom to grant life to captives thus mutilated.

My sufferings were great in themselves, heightened by the sight of what a like cruelty had wreaked on the Christian Hurons, fiercer than all in the case of Eustace; for they had cut off both his thumbs, and through the stump of the left one they, with savage cruelty, drove a pointed stake up to his very elbow. This frightful pain he bore most nobly and piously.


He goes on to describe an old woman being forced by an old man to cut off his (Fr. Jogues's) thumb, being naked and burned by the Sun, starving, having his shins beaten by rods, children throwing hot coals on them, Guillaume Couture having the forefinger of his right hand sawn off with a shell and how as "it could not sever the sinews, which were hard and slippery, [his tormenter] wrenched the finger so violently that when the sinews gave way, the poor sufferer's arm swelled frightfully up to his very elbow." René Goupil was killed.

Throughout this nightmare, Fr. Jogues baptized his fellow captives, absolved their sins, and prayed for and comforted them.

He was held captive for about a year, then was able to escape with the help of a Dutchman who hid Fr. Jogues in his barn, paid the Mohawks a ransom for him, and got him on to a ship back to France.

In France, he visited with his mother, and was granted a dispensation by Pope Urban VIII to offer Mass in spite of his mutiliated hand, which prevented him from offering the Blessed Sacrament using his thumb and forefinger in the usual way. The Pope considered him a "living martyr," but Fr. Jogues wasn't finished; he went back to New France in 1646, after about two and a half years back in his homeland.

While he'd been back home, the French and the Five Nations had reached a shaky truce that allowed for trade and safe travel, so his plan was to act as the French ambassador to the Mohawk people. But something else had happened while he'd been back home: when he returned to France, he'd left a wooden box, full of Catholic paraphenalia, that closed with a lock and could only be opened by a key. The workings of the box seemed magical to the Mohawk, and the foreign Catholic "stuff" did as well. When disease once again ran rampant through their population, they associated these things with some sort of wicked sorcery, and because these things belonged to Fr. Jogues, they thought of him as some sort of wicked sorcerer. So, on October 18, 1646, they martyred him with a tomahawk to the head. Then they decapitated him and threw his body into the Mohawk River. Jean de Lalande was martyred the next day.







In 1648, Fr. Antoine Daniel was shot when the Iroquois attacked the mission the Jesuits established in Teanaostaye.

In 1649, the Iroquois attacked the mission at Saint-Louis, taking Fr. Brébeuf and Fr. Lalemant captive. They were tortured, and they had boiling water poured over them as a mockery of Baptism. Then they were burned at the stake one day apart. Fr. Brébeuf's heart was eaten so the Indians could "absorb his courage."

In that same year, Fr. Garnier was murdered in yet another Iroquois raid, and Fr. Chabanel was killed by a rogue Huron who believed an untrue rumor that the Jesuits had made a secret pact with the Iroquois.

The eight North American martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius XI on June 29, 1930. You can read more about these heroic men in the following books from this site's Catholic Library. All are in pdf format:


St. Kateri Tekakwitha: The Work of the North American Martyrs Pays Off

Ten years after St. Isaac Jogues was martyred, and on the very same land where it happened, a baby girl was born to a Mohawk Chief and a Christian Algonquin woman who'd been abducted by the Mohawks and assimilated into their tribe. They had a boy child as well, but a smallpox epidemic killed everyone but the girl when the girl was around four years old. The girl, too, contracted the disease, which left her practically blind and with a very scarred face, but she survived and went to live with her father's sister's family, who were members of the Turtle Clan.

Because of her extremely poor vision, she came to be called Tekakwitha -- "She Who Bumps Into Things." She was shy and withdrawn, but she was also a paragon of the cardinal virtues, and brilliant at the feminine arts, spending her time sewing, cooking, engaging in beadwork, and weaving .

When she was around ten years old, the French attacked the Mohawks, destroying three of their villages. The Mohawk backed down, and a truce followed which included tolerance of a Jesuit presence on the part of the Indians.

The Jesuits were different from the Mohawks with their cruel tortures, and they were different from the secular French with their greed. Tekakwitha was fascinated, and she craved to know what caused them to be as they were. When she was eighteen and recovering from a foot injury, she told Fr. Jacques de Lamberville that she wanted to be catechized. He obliged, and on Easter Sunday of 1675, she was baptized and given the Christian name of Catherine, after St. Catherine of Siena. In the Mohawk language, she is Kateri.

Her Uncle was incensed, and the people of her village began to ostracize and even torment her. She embraced the goal of celibacy, further enraging her Uncle who wanted her to marry. Her life was becoming dangerous, so her priest advised her to move to a mission set up in Laprairie de la Madeleine, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, just across from Montreal. Fr. Lamberville gave the illiterate Kateri a note to give to the priests when she arrived at her new home. It read, "I confide to your care this young woman, Catherine, baptized into the Faith by me...You will soon know what a treasure I have sent you. May she profit in your hands for the glory of God..."

Now she was surrounded by Christian Indians, and she thrived. Fr. Devine's "Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks" describes her life at this time:

The early missionaries of New France had had long experience of the changeful character of their dusky flocks, and after the conferring of baptism they took reasonable precautions to assure themselves that their neophytes were fully disposed for the reception of the Holy Eucharist. The edifying life led by Kateri since her arrival in the mission made Father Chblenec, her director, feel that he should not oblige her to submit to a longer probation than that usually borne by the Indian converts, and when on Christmas Day, 1677, Kateri knelt at the Holy Table for the first time, her soul was overwhelmed with sentiments of faith and love. From that day onward her spiritual life became more intense. When she grasped fully the consoling dogma of the Real Presence, and understood that Jesus was present in the tabernacle of the mission church, her assiduity in watching and praying near His altar was admirable to witness. Every morning at daybreak she wended her way from her cabin to the little bark-roofed structure which then served as a temple; she heard all the Masses daily, kneeling and wrapt in prayer; she spent hours in heavenly converse with God. So real indeed had the Divine Presence become to her that she wished always to be near Him, and she begrudged the short time she took for her meals. Her biographer tells us that even when she accompanied her people into the forest she divided up her time as regularly "as if she were a religious".

She recited her morning prayers with the hunters whom she accompanied and who had been taught that praiseworthy habit. She tried to make up for the loss of morning Mass by uniting her intention with those who remained behind at the mission. While the hunters were at breakfast, she hid herself to pray. When they started out for the day's hunt or to visit their traps, she began to busy herself with cutting firewood or preparing the meals for their return. At home she took up the ordinary employment of the Indian women, making collars and moccasins and ornamenting them with beads and porcupine quills, an art in which she was very proficient. During her daily work she sang hymns or tried to recall the instructions given by the missionaries. Especially dear to this Iroquois maiden was devotion to the Passion to our Lord. The sufferings of the Victim of Calvary vividly appealed to her as soon as she realized all that they meant for herself and for the rest of her Iroquois brethren. It was a practice of hers, while at work with her needle, to have a crucifix near her, which she raised now and then to her eyes to contemplate thereon the image of Him for whose love alone she yearned She even carved crosses on the bark of the birch-trees to keep her mind from wandering from the Object of her love. So great was her desire to share in the sufferings of the Passion that, after the example of austerities given us by the saints, she gathered thorns and nettles and strewed them on the mat which served her for a couch.

A visit to the Religious Hospitallers of Hotel Dieu in Montreal made her acquainted with the use of disciplines, hair shirts, and iron girdles, instruments of penance which she afterwards not only used herself to satisfy her craving for suffering, but taught other pious women of the mission to use also. "She begged a companion/' writes Father Chauchetiere, "to do her the charity of severely chastising her with blows from a whip. This service they rendered each other for nearly a whole year without any one but themselves being aware of it; for this purpose they withdrew every Sunday into a cabin in the middle of the cemetery, and there taking in their hands willow twigs, they mingled prayers with penance." While not wishing to put obstacles to the action of grace in this predestined soul, her director kept a close watch on her, so that the demon should not have a chance to show his influence. But Father Cholenec's task was an easyone. All his advice and warnings were received with deep humility and consummate obedience -- a positive proof that she was being guided by the spirit of God, the Source of all sanctity, the Inspirer of all good deeds.


When she met with those religious sisters in Montreal, she knew she'd found her way of life. She made a private consecration of her virginity to Christ on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1679.1







Kateri's health was never good, and it began to wane even more when she was 24, becoming especially bad during Holy Week of 1680. On Spy Wednesday, she received Unction, and while prayers for the dying were chanted, she took her last breath. When her soul left her body, witnesses said her face glowed white, and all the smallpox scars it bore disappeared.

Of course, as it goes with Saints, her death was just the beginning: she began to make appearances -- three of them -- to those she left behind. One friend saw her standing at the foot of her bed, holding a "wooden Cross that shone like the sun." Another friend, while in bed, heard a knocking and a voice asking if she were awake. The friend got up to look around, saw no one, but heard Kateri say, "Adieu, Adieu, go tell the Father that I'm going to heaven." A priest, Father Chauchetière -- the priest who gave her Unction --  saw Kateri at her grave. He said she appeared in "baroque splendor," with "her face lifted toward heaven as if in ecstasy." For two hours he watched her.

Then came the miracles. A deaf priest had his hearing restored. A nun was healed through Kateri's second class relics. A Protestant boy was cured of smallpox by the same. In the necessary second miracle approved by the Vatican, in 2011 an Indian boy was saved from a flesh-eating bacterium that, his doctors said, would undoubtedly kill him and which they couldn't adequately treat. There've been many, many cures, and with cures come pilgrimage: her relics can be venerated at the Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in the main Church of the St. Francis Xavier Mission, located on Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada -- South of Montreal, along the seaway.

The process for her canonization was begun in 1885, and she was finally canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Her feast day is July 14 in the United States, and April 17 in Canada, and she is patron Saint of the Indian people and of the disabled. Of course, given the date of her canonization, "the Lily of the Mohawks" doesn't appear on the 1962 liturgical calendar, but she can always be especially remembered and invoked on July 14, and today, the feast of the men who made it possible for her to hear the Gospel and receive the Sacraments.

St. Kateri is recognized in art by her Indian garb, a lily, a Cross (usually wooden), and a turtle as a symbol of her clan.

To learn more about St. Kateri, see these pdf-format books from this site's Catholic Library (the last book is a microfilm scan, so isn't pretty to look at, but it's a more complete account of St. Kateri's life):


Customs

Some may prepare for this feast by praying the Novena to the North American Martyrs beginning on September 17 and ending on September 25, the eve of their feast (there is also the Novena to St. Kateri Tekakwitha that can be prayed as well). As to prayer for the day itself, the Collect from today's Mass will do:

O God, Who didst sanctify the first fruits of the Faith in the vast regions of North America by the preaching and blood of Thy blessed Martyrs, John, Isaac, and their Companions: mercifully grant through their intercession that the abundant harvest of Christian souls may increase everywhere day by day. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

Those able and willing to make a pilgrimage might go to the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, located in Auriesville, New York, the site of the martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues, René Goupil, and Jean de Lalande, and the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Those living more north might make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine to the Canadian Martyrs in Midland, Ontario, the site of the mission built by Fr. Jean de Brébeuf, and the place where he, Fr. Gabriel Lalemant, and Fr. Noël Chabanel were martyred. And there is the
St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, Quebec where St. Kateri's relics are kept.

There is no special music for this feast that I am aware of, but for information's sake, I have to tell you a very convoluted story about a song written by Fr. Jean de Brébeuf, one of the North American martyrs we honor today: There is an old French song, Une Jeune Pucelle (A Young Virgin), which itself was based on an older song La Jeune Fillette, which was set to the music of an even older Italian song, La Monica. Fr. Brébeuf wrote new words to the melody, using the language of the Hurons (Wendat) to do so, thereby coming up with a Christmas carol written in an indigenous North American language -- Jesous Ahatonhia ("Jesus, he is born").

The carol was later given English lyrics, and has become one of the most popular Christmas carols in Canada -- "The Huron Carol." Finally, someone else wrote entirely new English lyrics to make a hymn to St. Kateri Tekakwitha set to the same melody. Below are "The Huron Carol" and various lyrics and translations for the same music. Note that in "The Huron Carol" version of things, the Indian references are Algonquin and not Huron at all (Gitchi Manitou means simply "Great Spirit" -- i.e., God):



Jesous Ahatonhia

Estenniayon de tsonwe Iesous ahatonnia
onn' awatewa nd' oki n' onyouandaskwaentak
ennonchien eskwatrihotat n'onyouandiyonrachatha
Iesous ahatonnia, ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia.

Ayoki onkiennhache eronhiayeronnon
iontonk ontatiande ndio sen tsatonnharonnion
Warie onn' awakweton ndio sen tsatonnharonnion
Iesous ahatonnia, ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia.

Achienhkontahonraskwa d' hatirihwannens
tichion sayonniondetha onhwa achia ahatren
ondaie te hahahakwa tichion sayonniondetha
Iesous ahatonnia, ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia.

Tho ichien st' ahation tethotondi Iesous
ahwatatende tichion stanchitehawennion
asayontorenten ihatonk atsion sken
Iesous ahatonnia, ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia.

Onne ontahation chiahonayen iesous
ahatichiennonniannon kahachia handiayon
te honannonronkwannion ihotonk werisen
Iesous ahatonnia, ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia.

Te hekwatatennonten ahekwachiendaen
ti hekwannonronkwannion de sonywentenrände
outoyeti skwannonhwe icherhe akennonhonstha
Iesous ahatonnia, ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia.
Literal Translation

Have courage, you who are humans. Jesus, He is born.
Behold, it has fled, the spirit who had us as prisoner.
Do not listen to it, as it corrupts
our minds, the spirit of our thoughts.

They are spirits, coming with a message for us,
the sky people.
They are coming to say,
'Come on, be on top of life, rejoice!'
'Mary has just given birth, come on, rejoice.'

'Three have left for such a place;
they are men of great matter.'
'A star that has just appeared
over the horizon leads them there.'
'He will seize the path, a star that leads them there.'


As they arrived there, where He was born, Jesus.
The star was at the point of stopping,
He was not far past it.
Having found someone for them,
He says, 'Come here.'
Behold, they have arrived there and have seen Jesus.
They praised a name many times saying,
'Hurray, He is good in nature.'
They greeted Him with respect,
Oiling His scalp many times, saying, 'Hurray!'
'We will give to Him honour to His name.'
'Let us oil His scalp many times, show reverence for Him,
As He comes to be compassionate with us.'
It is providential that you love us, and think
'I should make them part of My family.'

'The Huron Carol

Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wondering hunters heard the hymn.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
En-wrapped His beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless Infant there
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free
O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and Heav'n
Is born today for you
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.
Hymn to Kateri Tekakwitha

Along the Mohawk River bank
A maiden pure was born
She grew to love the Lord our God
And for this love was scorned
She offered her whole self to God
To Him all glor, honor, laud

Jesus our Lord and King
Come and bless us with Your love.

Kateri Tekakwitha
Went to the woods to pray
She honored Mary mother of God
And prayed to her each day
God blessed her on her daily walk
This Lily of the Mohawks

Jesus our Lord and King
Come and bless us with Your love.

We call upon her name today
To incercede for us
We join our hearts as one and sing
I love you Jesus
Make all our lives a gift to You
With hearts so pure and love so true

Jesus our Lord and King
Come and bless us with Your love.
 

There are no special foods for the day that I am aware of, but foods from some of the Indians of the northeast of the U.S. and southeast of Canada sound like a natural. So below are recipes -- a soup based on "the three sisters" (corn, beans, and squash), an Algonquin bannock, and a Maple Indian Pudding for dessert:

Three Sisters Soup

2 tablespoons oil
1 zucchini, diced *
1 yellow squash, diced *
1 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic gloves, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup sweet potatoes, diced
1 cup diced tomato
1 roasted bell pepper, chopped
2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon oregano
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in the soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, chipotle powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Stir until potatoes are covered, well mixed and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the broth, tomatoes and roasted bell pepper. Add thyme, stir and bring to a soft boil.

Add the zucchini and yellow squash, corn and beans and let simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. The soup is ready when sweet potatoes and other ingredients are cooked through (when a fork goes through them easily). Add salt and pepper to taste.

* The zucchini and yellow summer squash can be substituted by acorn or butternut or other types of winter squash (e.g., pumpkin)


Bannock

3 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup to 1 cup milk

Heat oven to 425F. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter using hands until you make a nice crumble, resembling course meal. Gradually mix in enough milk to make soft but not sticky. Knead. Shape into a ball, place on a greased baking sheet, then flatten into a circle about 1 inch thick. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve alongside the soup, or with butter and honey or jam.


Maple Indian Pudding

3 cups milk
3/4 cups maple syrup (real maple syrup, that is)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 1-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. In a large saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, stir in maple syrup, and cook for 4 minutes. Add cornmeal and cook, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes. Add butter, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg while stirring well. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Take a tablespoon of the hot mixture and whisk into the eggs. Then add another tablespoon, whisking all the whille. Repeat until the egg mixture feels hot, then pour the egg mixture into the pot, stirring all the while. Pour into the casserole and bake until the center is set, about 1 hour. Serve warm, topped with whipped cream



If you're looking for relevant entertainment, the 1991 movie "The Black Robe" would be a good choice for the day. It's a fictional account of the evangelization of New France by the Jesuits.

For more "old school" entertainment, there is the very long poem "The Song of Hiawatha" (pdf) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882). While there was a real person named Hiawatha -- an Iroquois leader who helped form the Five Nations confederacy -- Longfellow's poem has nothing to do with him, and nothing to do with the Iroquois; it's inspired by an Algonquin people (the Ojibwe). This is the poem that begins its last chapter with the famous lines,

By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before him, through the sunshine,
Westward toward the neighboring forest
Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
Passed the bees, the honey-makers,
Burning, singing in the sunshine.
  Bright above him shone the heavens,
Level spread the lake before him;
From its bosom leaped the sturgeon,
Sparkling, flashing in the sunshine...

But the reason I bring it to your attention on this day, aside from its importance in terms of literature, is its theme. That final chapter relates how "the Black Robes" came to Hiawatha's people, and, so, Hiawatha's people came to Christ. An excerpt:

Then the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet,
Told his message to the people,
Told the purport of his mission,
Told them of the Virgin Mary,
And her blessed Son, the Saviour,
How in distant lands and ages
He had lived on earth as we do;
How he fasted, prayed, and labored;
How the Jews, the tribe accursed,
Mocked him, scourged him, crucified him;
How he rose from where they laid him,
Walked again with his disciples,
And ascended into heaven.
  And the chiefs made answer, saying:
"We have listened to your message,
We have heard your words of wisdom,
We will think on what you tell us.
It is well for us, O brothers,
That you come so far to see us!"
  Then they rose up and departed
Each one homeward to his wigwam,
To the young men and the women
Told the story of the strangers
Whom the Master of Life had sent them...

...Forth into the village went he,
Bade farewell to all the warriors,
Bade farewell to all the young men,
Spake persuading, spake in this wise:
  "I am going, O my people,
On a long and distant journey;
Many moons and many winters
Will have come, and will have vanished,
Ere I come again to see you.
But my guests I leave behind me;
Listen to their words of wisdom,
Listen to the truth they tell you,
For the Master of Life has sent them
From the land of light and morning!" 

Even if you don't read the entire poem, read that last chapter -- Chapter XXII, "Hiawatha's Departure." And read it to your children and grandchildren.

Mike Oldfield, the composer who wrote "Tubular Bells" for the soundtrack of the movie "The Exorcist," put parts of Longellow's The Song of Hiawatha to music on his album "Incanations." It's repetitive and hypnotic and skips over the part about the Black Robes, alas, but the entire poem could be sung to this melody:





Footnotes:

1 St. Kateri's vow was a private one; she was not consecrated by a Bishop. In other words, she was not "a consecrated virgin"; she privately made a vow of virginity, and she died a laywoman in the same way St. Catherine of Siena and St. Rose of Lima did. Still though, she is the patron Saint of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.


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