by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
CHICAGO - For years, Georgina Roy and her mother, both Ojibwe women living in Chicago, frequented restaurants. Every time they went out to eat, Georgina’s mother ordered a hamburger.
Georgina Roy - Ojibwe
Then one day, they went to a restaurant that did not serve hamburgers. Her mother still ordered a hamburger. Georgina calmly informed her mother that that particular restaurant did not serve hamburgers. This is when her mother confessed to Georgina that she could not read.
The whole thing baffled Georgina. She asked her mother how she made her way on Western Avenue in Chicago. Her mother told her she knew directions and remembered where certain landmarks - churches, banks or schools - were and that is how she made her way around Chicago’s north side.
From that day forward, Georgina would read her mother the menu when they went out to dine. Her mother discovered a whole new array of restaurant entrees beyond plain hamburgers.
New location of the Kateri Center of Chicago
Georgina Roy cares about all of the 250 American Indian families who come to the Kateri Center of Chicago, located in the convent at St. Benedict Parish, 3938 North Leavitt Street.
Roy was named director of the Kateri Center of Chicago in early April. There will be a special open house to honor and celebrate her new position at the Center on May 21.
A Spiritual Refuge for Area American Indians
Even though the Kateri Center of Chicago is a spiritual refuge for area American Indians, Roy sees the role as greater than simply meeting the spiritual needs of those entering the doors. Urban American Indians come for other reasons as well. Sometimes simply they drop by to be near other Natives. Sometimes they come with human services needs.
“I see my role as helping to heal the hurts American Indians may be experiencing,”
said Roy in a recent conversation on a Wednesday afternoon at the Center. “The community trusts me; they come to see me here daily.”
The Center Offers Tutoring Services to American Indian Students
The Kateri Center of Chicago interacts with various other American Indian programs around Chicago, such as the Chicago American Indian Health Services, the Chicago Public Schools’ Title VII American Indian program, the American Indian Association of Illinois and the American Indian Child Welfare Advocacy Program, among others.
“We are the conscience of the Chicago Indian community,”
Roy said, as a panelists at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration’s “American Indian Urban Families and Communities: Living Cultures, Education, Social Work and Policy” conference, referring to the dedicated leaders who work hard to improve the lives of Chicago’s urban American Indian population.
“We work well together,” commented Roy. “We want to see our community get better educations and better lives.”
Roy is one of a small handful of individuals who can speak the Ojibwe language. “I do get upset when some think our language is dead. It is not, people can come here. I am willing to teach the language.” Roy assists with pre-school children who are taught to speak Ojibwe. The Center offers tutoring services to American Indian students.
It was renamed Kateri Center of Chicago from its previous name, Anawim Center earlier this year when it moved into its current location this past January.
The center was named for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior who converted to Catholicism in 1676 when she was still in her teens and died at age 24. The Center changed its name to honor and ask the intercession of the Blessed Kateri. Roy felt the Kateri name would make it more recognizable to the American Indian community.
The Center includes offices, kitchen and a chapel. American Indian families come to worship twice a week in the chapel where they can integrate traditional spiritual practices with those of the Catholic faith.
Roy is a dedicated Ojibwe woman whose care for the American Indian community is evident to all those she encounters.
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