Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


Dr. Ellen Badone


In "Symbol Tales: Paths Towards the Creation of a Saint", I discuss Catholic Pueblo women's devotion to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a seventeenth century Mohawk convert turned folk saint. Between 1996 and 1998, I conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the Pueblos of New Mexico, including Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Acoma, and San Juan, as well as in Mescalero, on the Navajo Nation, and in the urban center of Albuquerque. This book is interdisciplinary and uses the methodologies and new writing styles of interpretive and reflexive anthropology to focus on the populist dimensions of saint-making, the ethnotheology of sainthood, devotional narratives, inculturation, miracle discourses, and Native American identity within the post-conciliar Catholic Church. I argue that the "blankness" and silence of Kateri in the official hagiographic tradition allows for both popular theological creativity in the imaginative space of the devotional narratives, and the formation of new social and devotional groups such as local "Kateri Circles" and the multi-tribal national annual Tekakwitha Conference. Finally, I explore the emergence of a broad Catholic pan-Indianism centred around the symbolic figure of Kateri Tekakwitha.

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