Today is the Catholic feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, St. Kateri was born in 1656 at the Indian village of Osserneon in Auriesville, New York. She died in upstate New York in 1680. Three hundred years later in 1980 Pope John Paul II had her canonized a saint. The statue of St. Kateri in front of St. Francis Cathedral became a part of the church in 2002. The artist who created the work of art is the artist Estella Loretto of Jemez Pueblo.
The Pueblo of Jemez sparked the first retaliation against the Spanish in 1649. Jemez was the first to experience the Recopilacion de leyes reynos de las Indias. Devised by the Spanish missionaries, it was an imposed law that provided land grants to Spanish people adjacent to Pueblo property. The law included the right to employ Pueblo Indians living near the appropriated parcels of land. In addition to having to work for the Spaniards, they also had to provide food that they had stored for the winter to help support the mission church communities. Needless to say, Jemez Pueblo actively participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
Jemez Pueblo is located on the east bank of the Jemez River 25 miles northwest of Bernalillo. More than any of the other pueblos they are considered the highlanders because of their location in the Jemez Mountains. They are the only Towa speaking pueblo left in New Mexico. It is believed that their present dialect grew out of a combination of the original dialects spoken at the extinct Pueblo of Pecos and that of Jemez, prior to the surviving members of Pecos joining Jemez Pueblo in 1838.
Jemez is the only Pueblo in New Mexico to speak Towa; one of the Tanoan languages, which are part of at least seven distinct aboriginal linguistic families in the Southwest. With the aftermath of the constant attacks and the epidemic of smallpox the Pueblo of Pecos continued to dwindle. By 1838 they decided to make a new home with Jemez who spoke their language. The Pueblo of Jemez was sympathetic to their plight and welcomed the Pecos refugees.