July 20, 2007

Juanenos pray for unity

Mission event brings Juaneno's together

Organizers hope Kateri Tekakwitha Mass serves to overcome tribal factions.More than 500 Native Americans and Mission San Juan Capistrano parishioners attended the first Kateri Tekakwitha Mass Saturday, as organizers attempt to unite the fragmented Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation.

With three groups claiming leadership of the tribe--led by Anthony Rivera, David Belardes and Joe O'Campo--organizers hope the Mass serves to bring Juaneno members together.

"There are some inner struggles and inner turmoil among the factions," said Jerry Nieblas, the event's organizer. "I thought there was only one way to bring our people together; through the mission and the church."

Kateri Tekakwitha, the daughter of a Mohawk chief who joined the Catholic faith in the mid-1600s, has become an important figure for the Juanenos.

"We picked her because she is the first Native American to be recognized by Rome, and she is one step away from being declared a saint," Nieblas said.

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