Tekakwitha was born near the place where St. Isaac Joges and Jean de Lelande were killed in Auriesville, New York. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Tekakwitha lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic and was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. Tekakwitha was moved by the words of three missionaries who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. Tekakwitha refused to marry a Mohawk brave and, at 19, finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri-Catherine-on Easter Sunday.
After her conversion, she was treated as a slave. Because she would not work on Sunday, Kateri received no food that day. Her life in grace grew rapidly. She was powerfully moved by God's love for human beings and saw the dignity of each of her people. She eventually stole away one night and began a 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal. For three years, she grew in holiness under the direction of a priest and an older Iroquois woman, giving herself totally to God in long hours of prayer, in charity, and in strenuous penance. At 23, Kateri took a vow of virginity, an unprecedented act for a Native American woman whose future depended on being married. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012.