It Takes a Village

In 1693, the French destroyed a fortified Mohawk village named, Caughnawaga. It was in this village years earlier, from 1666 to 1677, that Kateri Tekakwitha, a Christian Mohawk woman who was elevated to Sainthood in July of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, lived out much of her life. Today, the location, just outside of Fonda, NY, is the site of the National Kateri Shrine Tekakwitha Shrine. It is also the site of one of our most active, outdoor paranormal experiences to date.

Each year, the Shrine hosts the Annual Kateri Powwow over the Fourth of July weekend. In 2002, my family and I attended the powwow for the first time with friends and it proved to be quite an adventure to say the least. The grounds are gorgeous and well-kept and include a chapel and museum, a gift shop, a pavilion for Mass, a candle chapel, a bell tower, the Stations of the Cross and more. The powwow dance circle is situated in an open area behind the gift shop and on-site camping for dancers and vendors is wherever you can find space.

During our first visit to the Shrine for the powwow, I spotted a beautiful stand of pines that would make a perfect spot to pitch our tents. While the area was beautiful, we soon discovered that it was also home to something else. It began with whispering. Every so often, you could hear whispering in your ears. We weren’t the only ones who heard them. Many of the other dancers had the same experience. One of our Mohawk friends said it was just his ancestors talking to us, welcoming us. Perhaps. But I also noticed him smudging his campsite close to us, “just in case.” It didn’t feel bad or negative, although the area was definitely charged with energy. It was one of the most energetic sites we had been to up until that time. It WAS, after all, a massacre site, so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised by the interaction.

The first official day of the powwow, we were talking with Tom Porter, the spiritual leader of the Mohawk Community of Kanatsiohareke located just a few miles from the Shrine. He was sharing some of the local history with us when, all of a sudden, something rushed through the middle of our group, bumping into our legs and pushing us aside. My first thought was, “What the hell?” but I noticed that Tom was laughing. He said that it looked like the Little People were out playing again and just kept talking. Because I was still very much entrenched in black and white Christian beliefs, I struggled with defining these experiences as anything other than demonic. I later realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I would love to say that our first night of sleep there on the grounds of such a beautiful Shrine site was peaceful, but it was anything but. We got no sleep. We DID meet lots of new “friends” though and it didn’t take long for them to make their presence known. It began with “bubbles.”

I was lying in the tent trying to go to sleep when I noticed that glowing bubbles, “orbs,” were floating into the tent from the door. There were about 8 or 10 and they floated along like bubbles pulsing with energy. There were no negative feelings attached to them, but in the darkness of night, they were lighting up the ceiling of the tent. These weren’t like many of the photos you see of orbs (most of those are out-of-focus bugs or dust taken with a flash). I was seeing them with my eyes, wide-awake! After a while they dissipated and were gone. I apparently dozed off, but sleep didn’t last long because the next visitor showed up soon after and this one was hardly “tiny bubbles.”

Deborah woke up suddenly from sleep with the strong impression that something was intruding, and she was right. Standing at the door of the tent was a giant owl, perhaps six-feet tall. This was especially troubling because in many Native cultures, including Deborah’s Lakota culture, owls signify death or a warning of danger. So when a giant one shows up in your tent, it’s definitely an “Oh S#!@” moment.” By the time I was awake and aware, it was gone but its presence could still be felt.

In the morning when we awoke, Deborah and I discussed the activity of the night before. I will say that, even though we’ve had SO many experiences, you still wonder, at times, whether they really happened. The night’s festivities were soon confirmed, however, when I opened up the tent door to step out. Right there, at the entrance of our tent, laid an owl feather. It sent instance chills as I called for Deborah. “We were left a ‘gift’!” and showed her the feather. We got up, disposed of the feather and smudged the tent and the area. We later discovered that a Cherokee man who was also attending the powwow practiced owl magic and was checking out the new folks. When he learned about my Cherokee heritage, we became friends and never had another issue with owl spirits.

The remainder of the weekend was somewhat non-eventful. The whispering continued but there were no more paranormal manifestations. In actuality, we made a number of friends there and that powwow became a yearly family outing for us that holds many fond memories. One of the things I’m grateful for is the education we received through experiences like this one in Fonda. The experience there was the first of many at powwows around the Northeast and helped us see and grasp a much larger picture of the paranormal and the spiritual world around us. It also became a frame of reference for us for when the most intense paranormal encounter we ever experienced occurred a few years later…the night we met “Shaggy” for the first time!