Our Story

Who We Are

The community of Gichitwaa Kateri was founded by cooperation with Dakhota and Ojibwe elder and spiritual leaders, some of whom were Catholic, and some not, and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  

A little history: (Edited from our last website, written by Fr. Jim Notebaart)
When the Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed by the Federal Government in 1978, it created a broad resurgence of ceremonial practices, "legitimizing" Indigenous Spirituality. Across Turtle Island, especially here in Mni Sota Makoce (Minnesota), ceremonies such as the Inipi, Madoodiswan, or sweat lodge, Canuupa, Opwaagan or pipe, and the Wacipi or sundance, midewewin or medicine dance were revived. One of the tensions that developed as the Indian ceremonies grew, and remains as the Church is revealed as complicit with the Federal Governments' policy of forced assimilation, is the question: "Can a person be a Christian and still practice the spiritual legacy of the Indian people?" This is answered in a variety of ways, from revulsion to inculturation, and many spaces in between. Like other religions and spiritual communities, Indigenous Spirituality has also experienced a decline in practice, until recently. This spirituality is the basis of functioning in the life ways of many Indigenous cultures. And as with food and its connection to earth and other relatives, and language as a mediator of and for these connections to culture and life, this spirituality is the reality of all life. 

The ministry begins:

We began when the Indian people of south Minneapolis called for a change to the specter of dysfunction in the community along Franklin Ave. A meeting began above Branch 1 of the Catholic Charities building on Franklin and coincided with an Archdiocesan letter addressing the churches relationship with their Indigenous neighbors. This letter came out of an Indian taskforce gathered with Bishops, priests, lay ministers, tribal elders and chairs attending. Through the Minnesota Catholic Conference's office of Social Action-Social Welfare, these meetings, with stories and notes, show a clash of ideologies and life ways that brought light to the real disruptions occurring in the community, and their probable causes. Documents from these meetings were conferred to then Archbishop John Roach and he, in April 1975 wrote a letter called, "A New Beginning". This pastoral letter confirmed the wrongs of the past, spoke of their perception of the relationship, and proposed a way forward, committing to do better. The Archdiocese established the Office of Indian Ministry, among others, and its beginning work was direct service, acting as liaison with other Indian resources at the Franklin site. A newly conferred Deacon John Spears (Red Lake Ojibwa), and Amos Owen (Mdewakanton Dakhota) were early leaders fostering its work. Programs included Miigweyon (going home), and the Memorial of the Dead which are still operating today. The homicide memorial, with Hennepin County and other Tribal partners was also a part of the work. And the Office began a regular Sunday gathering for liturgy with those who participated in the programs. Outreach to unsheltered relatives and others began with contributions from early partners like St. Stephens parish. Many other men and women have contributed to the ongoing work of the Office and Gichitwaa Kateri. Our prayers continue. 

Continuing the Vision:

Since his engagement with the community in 1989, Father James Notebaart's vision for the Office of Indian Ministry, with other community members, developed a truly enculturated liturgy community. This had emboldened the individuals of the community to pursue a space for the Office and to embark on developing a parish with a home of its own. The Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis purchased the building at 3045 Park in 1995. Purchased from All Saints Indian Church (a former Episcopal church, and previously the Division of Indian Work's home), The Office of Indian Ministry and the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri grew here. We developed a strong Sunday Liturgy community, continued Miigweyon, and began to host events like the Elders Group, Grandparents raising grandchildren, and others. 


The Church of Gichitwaa Kateri was incorporated as a parish in 2008, as part of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  We seek to create an environment where everyone is welcome and where religious needs are met in a respectful way, honoring the various Tribal religious traditions. We are a strong and supportive community of Indigenous, and non-Indigenous people who welcome new members seeking a spiritual home.
Our community includes drummers, singers, pipe carriers, and others who are Sundancers. Our Elders continue to form us in the traditions. Kinčasa, Asema, or tobacco is offered bi-annually for community sweat lodges, and at every Sunday Mass for prayer. We have regular celebrations of the Sacraments, such as baptism, first communion, marriage, funerals, and others. We assist with people seeking sobriety, and to navigate out of poverty. We also supply food, clothing and necessities for those experiencing housing instability in our community. We assist families at the time of death, offering our building as a site for wakes, funerals, memorials and provide care in grieving. Miigeweyon, (going home in Ojibwe) is our hearse project that returns relatives home to reservations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas for burial.
 Today our community honors elders from all communities and specifically our founders by using both Dakhota and Ojibwe songs in our liturgy. 



Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (pronounced [ˈɡaderi deɡaˈɡwita] in Mohawk), given the name Tekakwitha, baptized as Katherine and informally known as Lily of the Mohawks (1656 – April 17, 1680), is a Roman Catholic saint who was an Algonquin–Mohawk laywoman.
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, on the south side of the Mohawk River. She contracted smallpox in an epidemic from contact with the early colonialists, her family died and her face was scarred. She converted to Roman Catholicism at age nineteen, when she was renamed Kateri, baptized in honor of Saint Catherine of Siena. Refusing to marry, she left her village and moved for the remaining 5 years of her life to the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake south of Montreal in New France, now Canada. Tekakwitha took a devout vow of perpetual virginity. Upon her death at the age of 24, witnesses said that minutes later her scars vanished and her face appeared radiant and beautiful. Known for her virtue of chastity, as well as being shunned by some of her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, she is only the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, and the first to be canonized. Under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, she was beatified in 1980, and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica on 21 October 2012. Various miracles and supernatural events are attributed to her intercession.


"The Church is Universal. As the Church engages itself with various cultures it takes on the qualities of the cultures in which it lives. Put simply: the Church is always incarnate in a specific place and time, among a specific people." Pope Paul VI summarized it well when he said in Evangelii Nunciandi #62:
“In the mind of the Lord, the Church is universal by vocation and mission, but when she puts down her roots in a variety of cultural, social and human terrains, she takes on different external expressions and appearances in each part of the world.”
As the Church cannot remain untouched by its encounter with various cultures, so to the cultures themselves change as they encounter the Church. This is no chance encounter between the Gospel and cultures, it is a matter of conviction for the Church.
Inculturation has been a tool and a result of evangelization throughout the history of the Church . It is the act of becoming incarnate within a people. Pope John Paul II expresses it well in Redemptoris Mission: “The process of the Church’s insertion into people’s cultures is a lengthy one. It is not a matter of purely external adaptation, for inculturation ‘means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures.’ The process is thus a profound and all-embracing one, which involves the Christian message and also the Church’s reflection and practice. But at the same time it is a difficult process, for it must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith”

“Through inculturation the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within. Through inculturation the Church, for her part, becomes a more intelligible sign of what she is, and a more effective instrument of mission.”

Our Social Values


1. Mitakuye Oiyasin - Dakhota ,  Gakinawemaaganidog - Ojibwe, "All are related".  There is a sense that all things are related, not just people, and there is a level of equality even among the things we think are inanimate. For "all are relatives” includes the entirety of creation. The earth is animate. Among the Ojibwa, everything with a shadow is considered alive and is treated with respect. What is alive has the right to life. If a life is taken (for example for food), it must be recognized and accorded respect. Because of this, our destiny is to contribute to the harmony of the earth by assisting all living things. 
2. The extended family is central to the Indian way of life. It supersedes all other relationships and envelopes all challenges and social problems.
3. At the same time, awareness and support of the difficulties of our relatives, and ourselves is important.
4. Generosity, by sharing material goods, is part of living in community.
5. Respect for individual decisions is paramount, even when individuals do not agree. This allows people to set their own direction without interference. It is different than the American value of “rugged individualism” of the Nineteenth Century. It is individualism within community. 
6. Generosity, sharing, courage to be brave in the face of adversity, and honor for the elders and their wisdom. 
7. Our Indian males share a deep value for the warrior way, so a proportionately large number have joined the military services.
8. We are guardians and transmitters of our heritage. This is done with humility and justice to show respect for cultural diversity and to build trust through our dialogue.
9. We make decisions through dialogue often involving the entire community, which is directed by elders, many of whom are women.
10. Much of our wisdom comes through traditional stories. We use the stories, often with animals and nature, as protagonists who give life lessons to humans. There is also a tradition of prophecy that comes through dreams and visions of individuals or traditional groups: for example, Nicholas Black Elk a Catholic Catechist, Chief Seattle, and the Midé prophecies of the Seventh Generation.
11. Respect for the land and the cycle of nature demands a level of awareness and care that are values for us.
12. There is a cultural aspect to humor that is used even in the most difficult times.