Empowering those around her

Health, Wellness & Recreation

Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller shares her journey of turning trauma to triumph.

Thirty years ago, the nation watched a 78-day standoff between the Kanesatake, Kahnawake and Akwesasne communities in Quebec and the Canadian military. The standoff was because a proposed golf course expansion would encroach on traditional Mohawk territory; it became known as the Oka Crisis. During the crisis an officer was killed, and a teenager stabbed. It is a flashpoint in Canadian history and a marker of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations in our country.

That teenager was Waneek Horn-Miller. She was 14-years old when she was stabbed by a soldier’s bayonet, while holding her four-year-old sister. Horn-Miller went on to represent Canada at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, as the co-captain of the water polo team.

“A women’s power to make change is endless when she fights to empower those around her.”

Waneek Horn-Miller

Horn-Miller shared her inspiring story at The Foundation’s Vital Conversation, Turning Trauma to Motivation – Building Strength, Confidence and Community: The Journey of Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller. It was held in February at Manitoba Theatre for Young People and included two sessions, an afternoon meet-and-greet with youth, and a sold out evening event for the public.

Horn-Miller overcame post-traumatic stress disorder, thanks to the love and support of her family. She also shared her belief in Kanoronhkwatshera, a concept and philosophy that means love is the ultimate power. She described her journey as an athlete, and how the gentle encouragement of her mother Kahn-Tineta Horn gave Horn-Miller the drive to become an Olympian.

“A women’s power to make change is endless when she fights to empower those around her,” Horn-Miller says.

She closed her keynote by talking about reconciliation in Canada, about how reconciliation is not a destination but a way of being, and how human rights are the responsibility of all humanity.

“If we want reconciliation, for ourselves and our children, we need to have hard conversations, build common ground, and really listen to each other.”

The Winnipeg Foundation presented this Vital Conversation in partnership with the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre and the Manitoba Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Council. Vital Conversations convene citizens on issues of importance, as determined by the community. They were born out of the community’s enthusiastic response to sessions held as a part of Winnipeg’s 2017 Vital Signs® initiative.

This story is featured in the Spring 2020 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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