NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
CANADA: THE PASSING OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN MOHAWK’S CHIEF FRANK NATAWE (1927-2000)
The path of the Native American Mohawk’s Chief Frank Natawe
led him to the bosom of Orthodoxy
Dr. John (Yanni) Hadjinikolaou
Rate Professor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada
in the magazine Synaxis
“The passing of a Mohawk Native American”
Here is the story of Frank Natawe an American Native Mohawk’s Chief (1927-2000) who lived and died as an Orthodox Christian (Eastern Orthodox Church), at the same time defending his tribe’s tradition. He even began translating the words of the most holy ceremony of Orthodoxy into his own people’s language.
AMERICA OF MY HEART
Saturday night. Very few lights were on. In the Russian Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Vespers have just started. The shadowy silhouettes of the few faithful who were attending the service became more defined, as the candles were lit, one by one, in the candle stand. The iconostasis of the altar was very imposing; it was something that was carved by experienced craftsmen at the beginning of the century…….
It was my second time at Vespers, years ago… The words of the prayer “mirthful light” in Slavonic gave one a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Everything seemed to be in prayer at that moment; for the day that passed and the day that was to come. After the madness of the day, this refuge of thankfulness actually calmed the wild beasts of the mind….
In the dim, half-light I could discern a few of the profiles there: an old Russian lady with her grandchild, a tall, skinny, middle-aged man, a young girl around fifteen, a young family with their two children… and suddenly, my attention was caught by a figure near the large window. Directly below it, I made out a silhouette that was completely different to all the others. It was a fifty-year old Native American with vivid, characteristic features, and his long hair tied back in a ponytail that reached his waist. My gaze stopped upon him… What a strange figure in here… I imagined he was just a visitor.
At the end of the service, I couldn’t fight the urge. I approached him, eager to meet him.
–Yannis, I said to him in English. Welcome..
– Vladimir, he replied.
– I’m Greek. And you? I asked him.
– So am I, he replied.
I was stunned…. That was the last thing I expected to hear!
– Do you speak Greek? I asked.
He paused to think for a moment, then quoted in Greek:
– «In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God, and God was the Logos».
Just as he finished saying this phrase, he burst into laughter. I was lost for words…
– I am Mohawk Native American, he said sharply. But somehow, I also feel Russian and Greek and Serbian and Romanian, because…. I’m Orthodox…..
A glimmer appeared in his eye, as it did in my heart…
This was how Vladimir and I met. His real name was Frank Natawe, before Continue reading “Canada: The passing of the Native American Mohawk’s Chief Frank Natawe (1927-2000)”