GANDEACTEUA (Gandeacteüa, Gandeaktena, Gandeaktewa, Gandiaktua, Ganneaktena), baptized Catherine, an Erie belonging to the Cat nation, responsible for the founding of the Saint-François-Xavier mission at Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine (moved in 1717 to Caughnawaga); d. 1673 at the mission.
In the autumn of 1654 the Mohawks completely razed Gentaienton, a Cat village, and before the end of the year they had annihilated this people of Iroquois stock, which had been established on the south shore of Lake Erie. Gandeacteua and her mother were carried off as slaves to the Oneida village of Ganouaroharé. The story is told that she soon won everyone’s heart. Towards 1656 she was married to a Christian Huron, François-Xavier Tonsahoten, who had been adopted by the Iroquois.
In 1667 she met Father Jacques Bruyas*, a Jesuit who had come to carry on his work in her village. She taught him Iroquois and in return he taught her the truths of the faith. Gandeacteua helped him to convert a dying woman. Shortly afterwards her husband took her on a trip to Montreal. She suggested to him that they should continue as far as Quebec. There, at the end of the summer of 1668, Bishop Laval* baptized her, as well as a small group of Oneidas and Mohawks. When the neophytes were back in Montreal, Father Pierre Raffeix*, a Jesuit, received them and invited them to spend the winter with him at Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine. Thus the “newly-baptized people returned in autumn and landed at la prairie, where in the course of time they and many others have built a fine village. . . . At the beginning of the winter, they set out to go hunting.”
In the spring of 1669 Catherine and the other Indian women sowed some corn. The crop was excellent. Three other Iroquois lodges were built that year. Catherine Gandeacteua’s charity and zeal attracted more and more pagans. In 1671, to her great satisfaction, more than 20 Iroquois families belonged to the Saint-François-Xavier mission. The neophytes decided to stay there permanently. In this same year the Jesuit Philippe Pierson, a Belgian, introduced the new converts to the Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille. Catherine had a preponderant influence in it, and even today the Confrérie still exists among the Indians of the mission.
Before the end of 1673 the Great Mohawk [see Togouiroui] brought some 40 of his people to Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine. By this time there were more than 200 Indians there, representing at least 22 nations. Catherine Gandeacteua had practically finished her work. This woman, whose charity, humility, tenacity, and tact were extraordinary, died after a short illness on 6 Nov. 1673. Everyone, French as well as Indians, had such esteem for her that when the cemetery was being moved in 1689, 16 years after her death, they quarrelled as to where her remains would be kept. It was finally decided that they would be kept at the mission. In the opinion of her contemporaries Gandeacteua, the foundress of Caughnawaga, was a true saint.
Charlevoix, Histoire. JR (Thwaites), LXIII, 154–82; LXI, 194–208. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain). The Positio on Katharine Tekakwitha. Positio super virtutibus servae Dei, Catharinae Tekakwitha (Rome, 1940). E. J. Devine, Historic Caughnawaga . . . (Montréal, 1922). Hunt, Wars of the Iroquois, 101–2. Félix Martin, Relation des années 1673–1674 pour faire suite aux anciennes relations avec deux cartes géographiques (Paris, 1861). Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la Nouvelle-France au XVIIe siècle.