After studying first the figure of Kateri Tekakwitha and the problems surrounding the procrastination of her canonization and then the various aspects of Katerian Catholicism in the USA, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, I now turn to the actual unfolding of the famous Tekakwitha Conference. The first conference was held in Fargo in 1939 for the Roman clergy in order to plan new evangelization strategies. Its success was such that it became institutionalized and one gathering was held yearly in the USA, but it was not until the 1970’s that the Native clergy, nuns in particular, forced the doors open for their own participation. Now they run the organization themselves. If this gentle coup can be called an act of resistance, one can still detect various strains of resistance within the whole structure.
Rather than organizing my whole presentation around the issue of resistance however, I wish to quickly survey the various tensions at work in Katerian Catholicism in order to dwell more at length on the unfolding of the yearly conference for its profound meaning derives from its specific chronology, from its staging masterly oriented towards a secular and spiritual finality, and such temporality must be respected at all cost. Before I start I wish to say a few words about my status when I attended the July 2006 Seattle Conference. My being a French lady interested in Kateri pleased the participants and they came to talk with me. One woman offered me her recently dead father’s necklace. Moreover, I was not just an observer but a full participant: the director of the Conference, Sister Kateri Mitchell, knew me personally and thought my work would interest people so that she asked me to hold two workshops. Such a task was both pleasant and awkward since I found myself explaining to the audience for an hour and a half the complexities of the canonization process of their Blessed patron and the next day the problems raised in Native lands by the activities of the Conference. I was then telling people what their conference was about, why they were there, and the tensions this was supposed to create in their own communities. However, people were most attentive (some of them seem to be dozing off on the pictures taken then!!) and answered positively on the evaluation sheet at the end of the conference. I thus fulfilled my duty as observing participant…
A. The strains of resistance within Katerian catholicism
The first and most obvious point of resistance is that of the Native Catholics who want to affirm their traditional cultures by transforming the rituals according to their own customs and no longer according to the Roman model. The Tekakwitha Conference is indeed the locus that allows them to state their cultural and spiritual identity through what is called the inculturation of Christianity. Yet, I already analyzed the latest developments of this phenomenon last year.
The second type of resistance is ironically fought by those Native Catholics who are taking a stand against those who are drifting away from the Church and back to “strict” traditionalism. In the process, they have to prove to the non-Christian Natives that they are not traitors. Yet again, this is nothing new and has been constitutive of evangelization right from the start. Moreover this was not visible at the Seattle meeting.
Another type of resistance may be seen in the fight between the Catholic Church and new forms of Protestantism, notably Pentecostalism, that are most successful on the reservations. We shall see how this is addressed by the Conference. It is important to note that the participants did mention to me the variety of creeds to be found in their communities but they rather underlined the general tolerance that prevailed.
What I found most interesting was the fourth type of strain: now that the Native members have introduced their own practices, the group most engaged in resistance was the Roman Institution! Furthermore, it is itself open to inner rifts as the clergy is divided between those who live daily with the laity and, on the other hand, the hierarchy. The first group is definitely on the side of the Native members. One sister, Sister Marie Faubert, could not contain her enthusiasm during one specific part of the Conference and let out this wonderfully American democratic interjection: « I am so happy to see all this, it is we the people actually doing things together, now at last the Church belongs to its members! » Her emotion was relayed by Connie Lee, Vice-President of the Board of Administration who would conclude after the Conference: « We members of the Tekakwitha Conference are experiencing more and more ownership of the Conference as we become more involved with our local Kateri Circles and use our time and God-given talents to make the Conference truly our own. » (Cover of Cross and Feathers, November 2006)
The brothers or fathers are divided between those who are totally incultured (inculturation is a two way phenomenon), look like Natives and remain in the bleachers during at least one mass, and those who are eager to join the hierarchy. One of these indianized priests told me: «Some of us don’t like putting up those fancy garments to tower over our people; we’d rather keep a low profile to be more in tune». I was made aware of the uneasiness various members of the clergy felt towards Mgr Lenz, the eminence grise towering over the Conference both as an institution and as a yearly meeting. As I have already focused on these issues, I will be brief here.
Finally, the top of the hierarchy itself is also split somehow since there are now two Native (partly so) bishops, one of whom was present at Seattle, Bishop Chaput. Did his roots make him different from the other bishops? I will try to answer this when I discuss what was, according to me, the strongest mark of the resistance operated by the Church as an institution in “a sea of changes”, as the phrase goes. Nonetheless, the divisions that one can read within the clergy seemed to matter less during the Conference than the collaboration of each and everyone to affirm the superiority of the Church through the beauty of its liturgy. Each of the three days unfolded according to this pattern: Native Catholics had the floor, the workshops, the crowds, yet the afternoons were crowned by elaborate concelebrated masses, with several bishops and priests in full regalia. I will conclude my presentation of this meeting on this point so important for Native Catholicism.
B. Facts on Tekakwitha Conference
1. The participants
In figures. Each year the number averages 900-1000: Burien, WA, 2006: 920 participants; Tucson, AZ, 2005: 1095; El Paso, TX, 2004: 831; Sioux Falls, SD, 2003: 960; Lansing, MI, 2002: 870; San Diego, CA, 2001: 1162; Lincoln, NE, 2000: 978; Spokane, WA, 1999: 1023.
Social level of the participants. Attending the Conference is not cheap. One must be a member: 20 dollars (15 for seniors) ; plus 25 dollars to register ; 100 dollars for conference fees ; 85 dollars for meals and trip to the Lummi. Around 200 dollars altogether, plus travel and lodging. If the conference is held in a different area each year to allow many to drive or ride Greyhound, most had to fly. Most participants are middle class. Some were definitely not very rich. The Kateri Circles encourage their members to attend and will organize many fund raising activities. The parishes as such do not contribute. People told me that attending the Conference was their yearly personal treat, a pilgrimage they embarked upon with family and friends who are sometimes non-Native.
Age of the participants
The average age was rather older, many people used wheelchairs which lent the conference an atmosphere similar to the pilgrimage for the sick at Lourdes. Yet since there were many young people, they somewhat lowered the average. Number of youth: 2006: 141; 2005: 183; 2004: 115; 2003: 165; 2002: 134 ; 2001: 233; 2000: 33; 1999: 128. They had their own activities.
As usual in this type of religious gathering there were more women than men, but there were still proportionally quite a lot of men, Lakota in particular. I even met Black Elk’s grand son, George Look Twice, a little tanned man, very nice and for whom Black Elk « was just my grand father ».
Clergy wise, men were more numerous than women: there were 38 nuns (42, 45 or 48 the previous years); 31 priests, 9 deacons, one brother; plus 4 bishops (including 2 archbishops) and four Monsignors (honorific title), thus 49 male members altogether. Feminine orders are more indigenized than male clergy but this was not visible at Seattle. The most famous nuns were Sister Kateri Mitchell, Mohawk, Sister Marie-Therese Archambault, Lakota, Sister Elaine Caron, all very involved in inculturation, and Sister Rosa, Pueblo, a spiritual healer.
2. Cost of the Conference
« The Annual Conference is self-supporting. Much is covered by the fees charged to the participants, and the Planning Committee always has a fund-raising component to raise other monies. Again, there are many variables (on campus or a convention center, rental of the facility, location, etc), so around $100,000 would be a good estimate. There are no subsidies. The Church per se does not provide funding to the Conference nor to the Annual Conference. » (Sister Elaine) The archdiocese of Seattle covered a lot of expenses (rental of the school premises), the shuttles, the buses etc. The people of the diocese financed the material for the kids, the craft workshops, the films, the refreshments, the generator. Local missions and casinos also contributed.
C. The unfolding of the Conference
Starting and ending with dances, the schedule included plenary sessions in the gymnasium of the Catholic school: general information, prayers, testimonies of God’s grace, jokes and mass. The numerous workshops were held in classrooms. The planning was perfect, the timing never gave in to “Indian time”. The Conference opened on Wednesday July 19 by the usual registration period and welcome speeches. The following days started at 6 am.
This was conducted each time by the member of a different tribe. I attended the service conducted by Joan Staples-Baum, a Chippewa White Earth who has lived in the area for a long time, is a convert to Catholicism and is director of « Catholic Community Services » of the « Tahoma Indian Center » in Tacoma and was one of the local organizers of the conference. She had placed the ritual objects on a blanket with the Byzantine cross often used in America at the top. She addressed the prayer to the four directions and burned plants according ot Chippewa practice: cedar for women, sage for men, sweetgrass for the youth. We then all smudged ourselves, there were about 20 people participating. It was after such a sunrise service that the conference actually opened on Thursday.
This was a grand moment of symbiosis between Native cultures and American decorum at large. For over one hour all the Kateri circles paraded in alphabetical order of their respective States, each called out by the MC to the rhythm of the powerful drum. Every one had put on their best clothes. This looked like a powwow, or an Olympic games opening, or again a Fourth of July parade, or a pilgrimage at St Peters’s where everyone hoists one’s national flag. If need be, the « Grand Entry » would suffice to demonstrate the integrative function of religion. In spite of its being universal, the Catholicism beyond the Atlantic is first and foremost American and such identity is then sculpted down according to the many communities forming it. The territorialization in archdioceses, dioceses, parishes corresponds there, as in the Roman Empire, to the markers of the American Empire and in our case to the tribal markers integrated in the various States. The Catholic “domestic dependent nations” may acknowledge all the more easily the legitimacy of those States when these correspond precisely with the land registry of their Church. Kateri’s followers, like so many Natives, have obviously made their peace with the United States.
The themes of the plenary sessions and of the workshops
The spiritual contents of the Conference is addressed specifically by the plenary sessions and by just a few workshops for most of these belong to the American self help, or group therapy tradition, the sharing of problems for the healing of individuals, families, communities. The Conference is a major actor of the Reconciliation policy, but in a confidential way, far from governmental intervention as is the case in Canada, healing being the key word of the gathering.
Different from liberation theology, the theology of the Conference remains however profoundly political in that it seeks to improve the daily lives of the members in its most material and social aspects, in order to allow them to reach a positive spiritual level, the two levels being reciprocal and inseparable. Such social gospel implies that the Church promote a series of recommendations on how to behave when faced with the major plagues of alcoholism, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, etc.
Just after the « Sunrise service », each morning were held the meetings of groups fighting alcoholism: AA; Alanon, Al-anon, linked to ALateen, to help people affected by the alcoholism of someone else, and ACOA, Adult Children of Alcoholics, which I attended with twenty people around the people. The facilitator opened the session with a prayer and gave a pebble to the person on her right, who told her own story and passed the pebble to her neighbor. Some pass on the pebble without speaking, the stories are short, moving. The solidarity between couples and family is tangible. One afternoon a « MADD in Indian Country » (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) session strengthened the preventive health emphasis of the Conference: “we hope to help others understand the reality of alcohol-related crashes by sharing our story… In honor and in memory of all our relatives in the Spirit world, we felt the need to stand up and speak out.” Similar work was done in the sessions on unwanted pregnancies or death of a child. The line of the Conference follows that of the Church and many were exhibiting the banner « Abortion is not the Indian Way », but the goal of the sessions was not so much to condemn as to help women and girls: « Grieving abortion/loss of a child » (Sissy Falcon et SIS Moses, Chippewa-Cree/Umatilla and brother Michael Fitzpatrick, SJ) ; « Divine Mercy linked with Pro Life Issues » (Clementine Little Hawk Fernandez, Sioux Lakota). Another helped survivors of cancer.
Healing must holistically touch all aspects of life: a workshop taught us how to recycle in the imitation of Kateri: « Blessed Kateri and Our Care for Mother Earth ». “It is our mission as Native Americans to be good stewards of the resources the Creator has bestowed on Mother Earth. Blessed Kateri has given us an example of ‘putting things in order’. Now, more than ever, we must put things in order, and care for our environment so that we’ll leave a beautiful place for our children, grandchildren, and all those to follow”. (Gail Rando, Cherokee).
« Healing Waters of Lake Ste. Anne » (Frank et Florence Large, Cree, and brother Jim Holland, OMI) blended the grand Catholic tradition of miraculous waters with the figure of St Anne, adopted by Natives over the figure of the Virgin. A Yoga workshop was to complete the paraphernalia of new age resources to access spiritual and physical harmony: « Yoga philosophy related to Native American view of honoring the spiritual nature of all things. Bring towel or yoga mat ».
Other sessions told how to cope with problems at work, how Veterans could collect their checks. « Music for Liturgy and Healing » taught how to play native or exotic instruments and songs to achieve loving healing. Elsewhere one could learn how to paint or make a shawl. The few workshops on inculturation were taught exclusively by members of the clergy unlike most of the others. They reinforced pastoral care to promote union with the Creator, the Lord, the Great Mystery, Wakan Tankan, Jesus.
Most of the youth sessions bore on the dangers of alcoholism, drugs and identity problems. From beginning to end the young were taught and coached, for indeed, if, as we have seen in the introduction, Native Catholics are threatened by the call of traditionalism, they are even more threatened by the lack of interest in spiritual matters, as here in our post-Christian world. The program organized by the Conference expresses the resistance of the Church as the union of believers, clergy and laity. The yearly gathering revitalizes it and makes sure the young will in turn relay its message, thus making up for the failings of broken families.
Healing in action
Thursday night, after dinner, one of the high points of the Conference unfolded. What was announced as “Healing service” and “non-sacramental healing” proved to be a charismatic session that lasted over two hours. The locally famous healer Johnny Arlee (who also gave a long plenary talk on healing) said a few words. Requiring the assistance of strong men, he stood in front of the floor, with two more healers standing on his left, and Sister Rosa sitting on his right. Those healers were to blow divine spirit into the queuing believers. One by one they murmured their request to the healer, who murmured back some words and in most cases the « fall out » and the « resting with the spirit » took place. The people thus visited upon explain that they experience the divine spirit who envelops their whole being in a wonderful and profound peace.
Charismatic healing was introduced to the Church at large a few decades ago and it is often barely tolerated, whereas here it was perfectly at home. Its Pentecostal origins make it hard to define since the founders were Black Americans at the beginning of the Twentieth century, but many contend that they just renovated the old Christian tradition of spiritual healing. What was taking place here was all the more interesting as a third current lay beneath the surface, that of Native shamanism of course. Indeed, outside the Church these tribal healers would have been called shamans or at least « medicine men » or « medicine women ». Through this “non-sacramental healing” the participants returned even more strongly to their Native cultural and spiritual roots. This was achieved in the most perfect syncretism since the message the healers imparted in a murmur was both eminently Christian and eminently Native: they are the human channels of the Spirit of the Creator, of the Great Spirit, of God, of Jesus. It is Jesus’ blood that flows upon the believer to redeem and bless him or her forever.
Clearly the whole evening belonged to the Native laity and their elders with the tribal healers playing the part of native clergy. The other great Native celebration took place on the Lummi reservation.
With the Lummi
They live north of Bellingham two hours north of the conference center. These Coast Salish were most welcoming and generous. Their Catholicism goes back to the 1860’s and their art and tradition gave to the Conference its profoundly inculturated aspect, a phenomenon that is not necessarily respected every year (2000, Nebraska, the Winnebago did not appreciate the innovations the Conference had introduced and they remained most conservative, refusing even to hear the drum). The Lummi organized various activities, served us two scrumptious meals of giant crab and salmon, and gave us presents: a four colour rosary and a medicine pouch containing a peanut, a sweet, a cedar bough, and a list of their cherished words: « cedar, canoes, longhouse, baskets, rope, paddles, clothes, roses, hat, mats, blessings ». The day was crowned by a beautiful mass in the tribal center.
D. The power and the glory of Catholic liturgy
Everything I have described so far testifies to the all encompassing involvement of Native Catholics and of their familiar clergy in the national organization and the unfolding of the Seattle Conference. If I have chronologically presented most of the activities, I have not yet spoken of the liturgy that concluded the three days (except the Thursday evening when mass was followed by the healing service). These high masses, prepared as must be in minute detail, fulfilled several goals: religious ones of course, but also political ones for I felt that they were meant to affirm the resistance of the institution itself, as I announced in the beginning. The three masses were concelebrated by several priests and bishops. The first one was presided by the Archbishop of Denver, Bishop Chaput, OFM cap (Order of Friars Minor Capuchin) assisted by 3 bishops, that of the second day at the Lummi’s was presided by the archbishop of Seattle, Bishop Brunett, the third by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo also from the archdiocese of Seattle.
At least twenty fathers and brothers, in vestments, formed the opening procession and I was most struck by the opening of the first day for I could not refrain from thinking: they have let the Natives hold their plenary sessions, their workshops, and now the clergy dressed in white, and White themselves (only a few members were themselves Native) were reasserting their might and occupying again the front stage. Yet, such acts could be placed on a more strictly spiritual level: after a full day of testimonies by the laity, of activities more profane than religious, high mass reintroduced the sacred towards which the members were to converge. The liturgy proclaims that the keeper of the transmission of the sacred is indeed the clergy only, priests, bishops, archbishops, all those who belong to the apostolic succession thanks to their sacramental consecration.
Yet again, if one remained at this level of interpretation, one would exhibit a poor knowledge of what Catholicism is about as opposed to other forms of Christianity. Hence this procession of clerics in vestments to enhance the bishops and archbishops, that is the dignitaries just below the supreme authority of the pope, made patently clear the difference with Protestantism that refuses such hierarchical power (except Episcopalism) and places the clergy on the same footing as the laity. But it is precisely the intense professionalism of the Catholic clergy that has been one of the factors endowing it with the strongest longevity. Furthermore, the beauty of the liturgy must be read as a gift offered to the participants of the Conference, all highly deserving. The presence of the bishops and archbishops honored them in the highest, and this is how they felt towards it and they were expecting it eagerly. During mass, no one loitered in the halls to chit-chat. If they remain Catholic in spite of the loud calls of traditionalists, it is precisely because the Catholic Church is past master in the art of ceremony, of beautiful ritual sacrifice, and this has always been its major asset during its evangelization campaigns, whether in Europe or in the rest of the world. The Jesuits were wont to relate how the potential neophytes and the converts praised those ceremonies. If it was its love for decorum that led it to lose half its empire, it is also thanks to it that it managed to regain its prestige with the Counter-Reformation and to triumph over its miserly rivals to become today the very first Christian denomination in the world. With great insight, it keeps staging the same script in Native lands and the Tekakwitha Conference attests to its success. My Kiowa friend Vanessa Jennings did confirm this when she explained to me how she became a Catholic: “ my husband was always in love with the beauty of the Catholic Church. I converted in my old age to the Catholic Church. I was in love with my Indian ways and prayers. However, the Catholic Church has so much ceremony and it blends with our Indian ways. » (Private correspondence)
Such success is all the more powerful since, as we have seen, the Church has internalized parts of the Protestant and post-colonial message imposing the integration of the laity in its inner workings and the satisfaction of ethnic demands. Thus these high masses incorporated the major requirements of inculturation. The altar, the lectern and vestments were decorated with Coast Salish patterns. The officiants were served by Natives who had rehearsed their part before. The thurifer was the first time Joan Staples Baum. She told me how flattered she had been to be entrusted with altar service for she was not expecting to be allowed to serve the archbishops since she was not a member of the clergy and was a woman. Another great moment was to have Archbishop Chaput practice smudging with high expertise. (See http://www.tekconf.org/liturgy/smudging_01.html)
In fact, everything unfolded according to the bylaws of the Tekakwitha Conference and the ceremony could only surprise the observer who, like myself, was desperately in search of inner tensions and rivalries! Indeed these bylaws stipulate clearly that:
“2.1 The top of the altar should have a cloth and corporal of a color sacred to the specific cultural group…
3. Enhancement may take place:
3.1 Entrance - Native songs, drums, dance
3.2. Penitential Rite-cleansing rites (e.g. smoke purification)
3.3. Gospel Acclamation - Native song, drums, dance. Smoke blessing of the Gospel.
3.4. Prayer of the Faithful - e.g. tobacco ties, pipe ceremony, ways local people pray.
3.5. Offertory Procession-Native songs, drums, dance. Smoke blessing of the gifts.
3.6. Proclamation of Faith - Native songs, drums, dance
3.7. The Great Amen - Native songs, drums, dance.
3.8. Closing Procession - Native songs, drums,dance.
(http://www.tekconf.org/liturgy/norms.html. Avril 2007)
I closed my introduction on my wondering whether the Native identity of the clergy, in this case that of Archbishop Chaput, made him different from the other clerics. When one reads his interviews (see Rostkowski) and when one sees him performing the liturgy and smudging, one can answer that indeed he is different since he is profoundly attached to his Potawatomi roots and to their presence within the Church. The other native bishop, Bishop Pelotte is moderator ex-officio of the Conference and as such involved in the indigenization of the Church. These two men however do not seem to be the prey of inner turmoils, for their Catholicity, in the strong sense of universality, does allow for those multiple identities.
The perfect unfolding of the ceremonies during the Tekakwitha Conference proves that the inclusion of Native elements (in the ritual, the symbolism, the healing service) over the last few years by the Roman Church in Native lands is no longer a constraint that it would feel obliged to adopt: they have become fully part of its identity. Furthermore, one could be mistaken about this and one could impose a cynical interpretation on the yearly Conference if one only saw there and then a complex knot of resistances, of antagonisms, first between the Native laity and the clergy, then within the clergy itself, and then between the Catholic laity and the non-Catholic Natives. In reality these tensions have always existed and the art of Catholicism has precisely been to annihilate them through incorporation in order to strengthen the whole edifice over the centuries. The variety of religious orders at Seattle is another proof of this: Jesuits, Franciscans, Capuchins, Oblates, Sisters of St Joseph, of St Anne, of Dame-de-Namur, and the Pentecostal charismatics, groups that not so long ago did not really cooperate easily, were all gathered at the Conference and focused towards a single goal, the physical and spiritual well being of its members in the name of the Christian God who is also the Great Spirit and the Almighty Creator.
Within the Conference, the different groups resist one another, but instead of pulling in opposite directions, they converge. We saw how the key word of the gathering was “healing”, well, healing was definitely at work here. Connie Lee, whom I already quoted, would later conclude on the yearly rejuvenation and the help given by the clergy and the non-Native friends, those she calls the “supporters”: « Each year at our annual gathering we see the depth and breadth of talent of Native Peoples together with our supporters. We come away renewed, encouraged, and on fire to keep growing with the help of Christ and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Yes, there are challenges. We will grow stronger and holier by staying rooted and grounded in love.” (Cover Cross and Feathers, November 2006)
It is indeed those contrary strains of resistance that, as in the checks and balances system, convey extraordinary momentum to the whole. The universal Church of which the Catholic Church is the best example, if not the only one, is defined as a religious body that is inclusive of all persuasions, far more than national Churches and contrary to the cults and sects. The power structure that the Roman Church epitomizes best can only survive in general and in Native lands in particular because it generates new strains to better absorb their energy and because it subsumes all inner quarrels in the crowning of its sublime liturgy. Through the Tekakwitha Conference, the participation of all in the sacrifice of its God, the master hero of resistance to the world, reconciles the brothers who were enemies before, in a grand declaration of forgiveness and love. As the daughter of the reed as well as of the oak tree, this institution still knows marvelously well how to resist…
Cross and Feathers, November 2006. (Newsletter quaterly de la Tekakwitha Conference)
RIGAL-CELLARD Bernadette. « La Vierge est une Amérindienne : Kateri Tekakwitha, à l’extrême imitation de Jésus et de Marie. » in B. Rigal-Cellard, ed. Missions extrêmes: en Amérique du Nord : des Jésuites à Raël. Bordeaux : Pleine Page, 2005. 124-156.
-------« Kateri Tekakwitha, l’Église catholique et les Amérindiens: qui cadre qui?” CLAN, Cadres et limites. 2007.
ROSTKOWSKI Joëlle. La conversion inachevée : les Indiens et le christianisme. Paris : Albin Michel-Terres indiennes, 1998.
Adress of the national office of the Tekakwitha Conference :
P.O. Box 6768
Great Falls, MT 59406-6768(Montana, USA)
 Many participants gave me a lot of information on the Conference, in particular Sister Kateri Mitchell, SSA, executive director of the organization, Sister Elaine Caron, SSA, administrative assistant of the Conference, Joan Staples-Baum, co-president of the organizing committee and many more whose names I cannot recall. I wish to thank them for such kindness, patience and trust. Since I was a workshop presenter, I was offered lodging by the organizing committee whom I thank from the bottom of my heart. I am also indebted to my research centers (CLAN and CEC) that helped cover my travel expenses.
 My impression mellowed the second day when the opening procession in the Lummi tribal center mixed more the Lummi elders and the clergy so that the overall impression given by the opening procession was definitely more of a mix than the previous day.
 In my report last year I noted that some of the people I interviewed had expressed reservations about the clear involvement of the Native bishops in the Conference, but during Mass, no such ambiguity was discernable.