Transcript of Kahentinetha Horn: Nothing but the Truth – Part 2
Théo Martin: This podcast contains historical language and content that some listeners may consider offensive. This includes language used to refer to racial, ethnic and cultural groups. Items in the collection, their content and their descriptions reflect the time period when they were created and the views of their creators.
JA: Welcome to “Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.” I’m your host, Josée Arnold. Join us as we showcase treasures from our vaults; guide you through our many services; and introduce you to the people who acquire, safeguard and make known Canada’s documentary heritage.
JA: In the second part of this two-part episode, we continue to explore the life and legacy of Kanien’kehà:ka (or Mohawk) activist Kahentinetha Horn through the records of Library and Archives Canada. If you haven’t listened to Part 1, I encourage you to do so. To quickly sum up, in early 2020 we invited Kahentinetha Horn and her daughter Waneek Horn-Miller to visit us at our LAC facilities in Gatineau, Quebec. We presented them with a number of items from the collections at LAC related to Kahentinetha’s life and recorded their reactions to this material. They were seeing some of these items for the very first time.
We started off day two of the visit, by sifting through the hundreds of textual records pertaining to Kahentinetha’s life. Most of these were letters she wrote to various government departments and agencies, in an attempt to improve the lot of her people. Some of these documents brought back painful memories. Here she discusses her involvement with the National Indian Council.
KH: I went to that meeting. They didn’t want me to go to the National Indian Council meeting in Winnipeg. And Chief Pine and I took a bus and went out there.
JA: Kahentinetha was a board member of the National Indian Council board, or NIC, along with approximately 12 other board members, including two other Kahnawake members. At a previous NIC meeting, which she had attended with Chief Pine, she was illegitimately removed from the board. The meeting she is speaking about here is the annual NIC gathering at Chief Pine’s Reserve at Batchewana, Ontario.
KH: We went by bus. And it was on his reserve, the meeting. He asked me to come there. He says, “Help me.” He says, “We have to set this up. These people are coming.” So I got on the bus and I went there. And then when I got there, we arranged where the meeting was going to be, and brought chairs in there, and some people to cook food and stuff like that.
And then, it was a horrible time for me... Before I went, before I left to go there, I knew what they were going to do to me, they were going to insult me... I was only like in my early 20s, I was young. And I said I don’t know what I’m going to do if they start insulting me and stamping their feet on the floor. And it was all organized by that Bill Wuttunee, he’s a lawyer.
So I didn’t know what to do. So a bunch of us got together, and I said, “Okay, you’re going to teach me how to speak in front of all these people.” And so I made a speech, and then they all sat there, and they started insulting me and stamping their feet, calling me names, so that I could deliver my speech. And we practiced that for about a week. Every day we’d meet, and I was getting better at it. Finally, by the end of the week, I was able to do it, and then I went to that meeting. Because they knew, they knew how it would… that would really upset me, just completely throw me.
JA: Chief Pine had warned her that there would be an attack orchestrated to make her cry. She had her cousins and family prep her for such an attack by simulating the verbal threats and insults that would be thrown her way.
KH: So we had the meeting. They were all in that big hall, that hall. Chief Pine was standing at the back, Bill Wuttunee was at the front, and things were going on, and they were doing things I didn’t like, so I was questioning it. So every time I stood up, they’d start calling me down, calling me all kinds of things, it was horrible. And anyway, I said, “I want an answer to this, I want an answer!” I hope we can find what I presented there in here. Maybe they have it… what I said, because I don’t remember everything, but it was all very pertinent to what was going on at the time. And…
EM: So the other one was a speech, practice speech. I wonder if it’s related.
KH: It’s probably in here somewhere. I would like to find that one. Anyway, so here’s what happened. He started, I got up, and he told me to sit down, and I wouldn’t sit down, and I said, “I want you to... This has to be answered,” and I insisted on it, and I wasn’t as confident as I am now, but I pushed myself. Then he said something that really threw me. He said, “You are the most horrible Indian I have ever seen in my whole life.” And then they all screamed at me. He did that to me.
And then Chief Pine was at the back, and he walked right up to the front, and he just said, “Nobody will come and treat anybody on my reserve like that!” and he went BANG! He hit the table so hard he broke his watch. And Chief Pine and Bill Wuttunee, Wuttunee stood there, his face went completely white. He was so scared of Chief Pine, and Chief Pine was an old man.
That’s what happened at that meeting. This was to really, really hurt me, and I was... you don’t treat young people like that, but that’s what they did to me.
JA: In the early 1960s, Canada won the bid to host the World’s Fair, what would later come to be known as Expo 67. For more on Expo 67, check out Episode Number 39 of our podcast. In this clip from 1961, Kahentinetha talks about the World’s Fair and some of her ideas to help raise the morale and visibility of her people.
Recording of KH: I’d like to see the World’s Fair as a sort of a presentation of the Indians’ very noble culture and heritage, something that has been neglected out of the history books. I would like to see the Indians all reviving their culture. Once you have them knowing something about their background, who they are, what they are, you will see the Indians going forward and becoming I think very, very important to Canada and the growth of Canada as a nation.
JA: Kahentinetha shared her ideas about the World’s Fair with the Band Council of Kahnawake.
KH: I gave them the whole thing. And then they never called me. However, the idea was taken by the representatives, the Band Council representatives.
EM: From Kahnawake?
KH: From Kahnawake, yeah! And then they put up this pavilion, and it was what I had come up with. But they gave me no... they didn’t say anything about me, and then they had the opening and all that, but... and I didn’t get invited to that. They did that to me, so I got used to that.
EM: We don’t have to talk about it too long, but that footage when you’re, I think it was that when you were in court, you said you had a problem with that man too. He was stalking you at Expo 67?
KH : That man! Yes!
EM: And then because he couldn’t... which you explained to me yesterday.
KH: He wanted to go out with me, and I said no...
EM: Because she wouldn’t oblige him.
EM: He called her some horrific, terrible name.
KH: He called me a...
EM: And that when she... and then she was... and then court.
KH: I ended up in jail! And I had a criminal record for a long time over that.
EM: Defending her own honour.
KH: Yeah! He called me a... well, should I say it?
EM: Say it!
KH: Yeah. He called me a f***ing [beeped] Indian whore…
JA: Kahentinetha had been working at Expo 67 as a model in the Canada Pavilion. She told us that she had been approached by a Caucasian man, a writer for the
Toronto Telegram who was being overly friendly with her. Kahentinetha was initially very polite with this person. But when his unwanted flirtations persisted, to the point of actually stalking her, she was forced to tell him directly to stop. The man did not take this well and was miffed. This resulted in the man writing three scathing news articles about Kahentinetha for the
Toronto Telegram, mostly personal attacks on her character. This was very upsetting to Kahentinetha. In an attempt to allow her to refute what was said in the articles about her, which were false and abusive statements, she wrote to the editor, [J. Douglas] MacFarlane. He replied that he stood by his writer. So she invited the editors of the
Toronto Telegram to a meeting at the Toronto Newspaperman’s Club. She travelled by train and arrived in Toronto on the day of the meeting. At the club, a man who knew who she was approached her and informed her that there was to be no meeting. She then headed to the
Toronto Telegram in an attempt to resolve the issue. When she got there, she went up to the offices and saw the man who had written the articles about her sitting at his desk, in an open area. When he saw her, he yelled, ”Get out of here, you f***ing [beeped] Indian whore.” So she marched up to him, punched him, and he fell off his chair. Then he jumped up and started punching her in the stomach, while she screamed and yelled at him. The other male staff just sat and watched. Then four of them got up and grabbed her. MacFarlane came out of his office, and he told her to leave. She told him, “I will, if they take their hands off of me.” She went down an escalator to the lobby and sat on a bench to collect herself, asking a security guard to call her a taxi. The offending journalist, whose face was bleeding at this point, came down the escalator with a group of men, who were bringing him to the first aid room. On the way, he saw her again and started yelling, “Get that bitch out of here!” She then ran across the lobby to the room where he was and tried to grab him from behind a door as he tried to close it. The security guard came and grabbed her from behind, immobilizing her. She was finally able to get outside and called herself a taxi from a telephone booth. She left the scene and called a young
Toronto Star reporter by the name of Peter Gzowski to tell him what had transpired. Gzowski, who went on to become a celebrated personality at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, assured Kahentinetha that everything was fine and that she should take the train home and not worry about it. When she arrived in Montréal at Central Station, she witnessed what could only be called a media circus erupting. She assumed there must be someone famous arriving by train and went on her way. It wasn’t long before she realized that the news of her battle in Toronto had spread like wildfire and that all the excitement at the station was for her! She noticed her brother in the station waving and yelling at her, telling her to keep her mouth shut or she’d get arrested, which she thought was very odd. The RCMP grabbed her, arrested her and threw her in jail.
KH: I was put in jail, and nobody knew where I was. They couldn’t find me! They hid me! And then finally somebody did find out where I was. It was a whole horrible thing.
JA: Kahentinetha spent a week in a cell not knowing where she was, and was not allowed to contact any of her family. John Bassett, owner of the
Toronto Telegram and father of tennis star Carling Bassett, pressed charges against her, of which she was convicted. As for the offending man, she refuses to acknowledge him for any reason.
KH: And the court case was just awful! I said what had happened. But I wasn’t allowed to do anything about it, they told me. So I took it. I ended up with a criminal record, which took years to get… to have that removed.
Anyway, let’s go on with that...
JA: If you’d like to hear more about this unbelievable story, check out Episode 1 of “Coffee With My Ma” wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll find a link on the episode page for this podcast.
We presented Kahentinetha and Waneek with a number of photographs we thought they would find interesting.
WHM: Oh, my dad!
KH: George, yeah!
WHM: Is that his family? No... Is that? No, that’s the school!
KH: No, this is Cookie.
WHM: That’s Cookie.
EM: Picard, Ghislain Picard’s wife.
KH: Yeah. Yeah.
WHM: Where’s Ghislain?
EM: This is...
KH: He’s not there.
WHM: This is, this is...
EM: Come on, you know where it is!
WHM: This is... I know what it is, Mom!
WHM: It’s the Manitou College! Graduation...
KH: Manitou! Oh my God!
WHM: Holy crap!
KH: Yes, they all went there! He was the director of Manitou College!
WHM: In... where was it, Mom? I’ve got to take a picture of that…
KH: It was in...
WHM: People don’t believe that...
KH: La Macaza.
WHM: I love it! I love it!
EM: This is a girl from town.
WHM: From town?
KH: Dear? Dear? [interruption]
WHM: Who’s this? She looks like from town.
EM: I have the names...
EM: But I don’t have them on me.
WHM: Oh, wow! What an awesome picture!
EM: I can give you the names...
KH: I used to go out there and visit them, you know, get the kids in the car and go up there.
WHM: Ooh! Oh!
KH: Where is this? Oh!
EM: I have some extras, too!
KH: Oh, wow! I remember that. I remember these.
WHM: Is that me?
JA: Kahentinetha and Waneek were active participants in the Oka Crisis of 1990. But before we get to this, let’s back up a bit.
In 1959, the town of Kanehsata:ke (also known as Oka) granted a developer permission to develop a nine-hole golf course on traditional Mohawk land, adjacent to a Mohawk burial ground. The Mohawk community filed a lawsuit against the development, which did not succeed. In 1990, the golf course sought to expand to a full 18 holes, but the developers did not consult the Mohawk on these plans, nor did they undertake any kind of environmental or historic preservation review. The Mohawk people protested this lack of consultation, but the courts ruled in favour of the developer. Members of the Mohawk community responded by setting up a barricade, blocking the development from happening. The result was a tense 78-day stand off that received international attention.
We presented Kahentinetha and Waneek with a number of photographs taken at the stand off, which resulted in mixed emotions for them.
WHM: Is this?
EM: This is the action at Châteauguay.
WHM: Oh, right.
KH: Wow! I should take this to them, show it to them.
KH: When we came out, they wanted the women to...
WHM: Oh, that’s my sister.
KH: …and the children to come out and go into a tent, and the men would come out. We had a meeting. “No, that’s not what we’re going to do.” They wanted us to come out separately, and we said, “No, we’re not going to, we’re going to all mix, we’ll come out together.” That’s what we did. And then instead of going straight on to where the army was waiting for us, we suddenly turned and went to where the media was.
WHM: You know what’s terrifying about that?
WHM: You know what’s really scary about this picture?
WHM: It’s that this kid is sitting here...
WHM: Playing. And that’s what we would, the kids would do. And on the other side, there’s like hundreds of guns pointing at them.
KH: Yeah. Little kids.
WHM: But like, they just got used to it. You got used to it, and you just didn’t notice it any more.
JA: Here’s a clip from the television series “Chiefs and Champions,” Episode 2, which featured Waneek Horn-Miller. Released in 2004, this documentary can be found in LAC’s film, video and sound collection.
Clip (Tom Jackson): But at the age of 14, Waneek’s youth was shaken by a life-altering event. In 1990, the eyes of the world were on the Oka Crisis in Quebec. Mohawk warriors defended their territory against Canadian forces in a 78-day stand off.
Clip (KH): There was so much chaos going on. There was fighting going on everywhere, with pushing and shoving and screaming. The little one was screaming.
Clip (WHM): The cry you never want to hear is that cry of “I’m scared I’m going to die.” Like, she was absolutely terrified. And I was just like, oh my God, I’ve got to get her out of here, I’ve got to get her to safety. And then I was trying to walk to the media roadblock. I was pretty hysterical, and there was a soldier that I recognized. By that time, I was pushing against two other soldiers that were trying to push me back. And I looked at him, and I remember saying, “I know you!” Kind of remember the whole thing in sort of flashes.
As I stepped forward, I got hit, and I fell forward, and I got winded. It was right on my sternum, like right over my heart. And I fell forward, and then someone kicked my feet out underneath me, and I fell back, and then dragged me on the ground all the way back to sort of the perimeter.
And it wasn’t until… I don’t know how much time had elapsed, and we were getting boarded onto buses, and I looked down, and I was like covered in blood. And I was like... I looked underneath, and I had, you know, I had been stabbed.
JA: Waneek recovered from this horrific incident, and went on to become a top water polo player winning gold for Canada at the Pan Am games in 1999 and becoming the first Mohawk woman to compete in the Olympics, as co-captain. But if her mother taught her anything it was that she should find a way to use her stature to help others – to inspire them.
Clip (WHM): First step that I always tell kids, step towards their dream, is saying “I can and I want to.” You know, I remember seeing Alwyn Morris win his gold medal, and it was the first time I even thought, it even entered my mind that a Mohawk could be world champion and Olympic champion, you know. That wasn’t something I even thought. There’s a lot of Native kids out there don’t even, that isn’t even a concept for them, you know.
So I’ll go there, and I’m like, you know what, look at me, I’m not that big, I’m not that strong, I’m not that great, but I went to the Olympics, and I won a world championship medal, I was Pan-Am champion. Like, it’s not that beyond your grasp, and as a community, as not just Mohawks but as a community across this country, we have to start taking sport seriously.
A nation starts with the individual. If you skip over that and go directly to community—oh, we have to do work on community development—no, the individual has to be strong and healthy and balanced, because if you have a person like that, they’re more willing to help other people, they’re better partners in their relationships, they’re better parents when they have children, and they’re better community members, because they are healthier people .
JA: In large part because of the increasing tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada as witnessed at Kanehsata:ke (or Oka), the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (or RCAP) was established by Order-in-Council on August 26th, 1991. It submitted a report on its findings in October 1996. The RCAP was mandated to investigate and propose solutions to the challenges affecting the relationship between Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation), the Canadian government and Canadian society as a whole. LAC has a web page dedicated to RCAP. We have posted a link on the episode page for this podcast. We showed Kahentinetha and Waneek a number of photographs from those meetings.
KH: And there’s...
WHM: That’s weird.
KH: I recognize that.
WHM: Who’s this?
EM: That’s one of the commissionaire ladies. I don’t, I can’t remember her name. She was on the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples.
KH: That’s my daughter there.
WHM: Oh, look! That’s George Erasmus.
KH: Yes! Let’s see.
WHM: Billy Two Rivers. Oh, look! Gilda Francis.
KH: Let me see!
EM: Everybody’s in there.
KH: Oh my gosh!
EM: June Delisle.
KH: There’s, there’s Marina.
EM: No? That’s not June Delisle?
WHM: That’s Marina.
EM: Oh, sorry.
KH: Yes, that’s Marina.
WHM: I remember that shirt.
EM: Oh, Marina...
KH: And there’s Eva Johnson.
KH: There is June Delisle!
EM: On the wheelchair.
WHM: What is that, that meeting?
EM: There you are.
WHM: Where’s that meeting?
EM: The Moose Club.
WHM: What is it, though?
EM: The Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples.
WHM: Oh, the Royal Commission! In ’91, right?
EM: ’93 or ’94…
KH: I remember when the Royal Commission came out, after 1990. And then they had a big meeting at McGill University, and they had… they were all sitting up there, talking about and answering questions. And the only problem was not one of them had read the report! But I did! I was the only one there that read it!
WHM: I remember that.
WHM: I remember when you read the report.
KH: Yes. And then I went to that meeting. I was sitting there, and I said... so I finally got up, I said, “I’d like to know if there’s anybody in here who read that report.” And they all sat there like this. Nobody read it. I said, “I’ll tell you who read it, me.”
WHM: Send that to [Kahentinetha’s daughter] Kahente. [laughing]
KH: Not too long after that, the meeting broke up, because they did not know... And there, they’re sitting there answering questions about it!
JA: Waneek talks about her mother’s fearlessness, fortitude and determination, character traits that have served her well throughout her long life.
WHM: Me and my sisters have seen her go through hell because of that, because she’s brave, and she’s intelligent, and she has a good track record, and she pretty much has never deviated from her stance on things. Like she’s always been this way, you know, from that young girl with the Barbie to now. Her spirit is still that Barbie, but she’s been through the track record. And me and my sisters really worry because we’ve seen her get thrown under the bus by people a lot, and because they’re afraid. And she’s never been afraid. For some reason... Because you, every time... You know, how many times in our lives has everything come crashing down, we’ve lost everything.
KH: Yes, many times. We had to start from the beginning with nothing. Yes.
WHM: Job, money, anything like being on welfare. No furniture, and we would just watch her kind of build up again and then continue to go, you know, and like a new career. I remember at what, sixty-something, you became a blackjack dealer.
KH: Yeah, at the casino.
WHM: You know, at the casino, you know, after having a master’s degree! [laughing]
KH: Then I also went to and taught at McGill University, not McGill, Macdonald...
KH: Concordia University. I taught there for quite a while. I had to keep working, keep working and finding new jobs. The problem with me was that I had been so demonized, but also I was blacklisted, never to be in the media ever again, not the mainstream media.
So I knew that, so there was... Even if I died, they would never mention me. Because I was attacked at the border, and I almost died. I had a heart attack. And nothing was ever mentioned anywhere about it. And that was a big thing, pretty serious! I was beaten up by the border guards, 12 of them, and then I got charged with beating them up! That goes to show you how… you know, it’s bizarre what they do, what they did to me.
JA: In 2008, at the age of 68, Kahentinetha was involved in an altercation at the Canada–U.S. border near Cornwall, Ontario. Kahentinetha and her friends were stopped at the border, surrounded by a team that appeared to be a special, tactical team of heavily armed guards. One of the passengers was violently dragged from the back seat of the car. After seeing this, Kahentinetha, fearing for her life, refused to get out of the car. She was then pulled out of the car and forcefully handcuffed. Kahentinetha recalls that the border agent tightened the handcuffs so much that they were cutting circulation to her hands. It wasn’t long before she saw flashes of light and felt sharp pains in the middle of her chest and back. She cried out for help, but the border guards refused to acknowledge her distress. It wasn’t until Kahentinetha’s brother arrived and realized she was in fact having a trauma-induced heart attack, that she was able to get medical attention. Her brother and his sons watched over her all night at the hospital, as they suspected the authorities were planning on taking her to an unknown location. Kahentinetha survived but was then charged with assaulting a peace officer and obstructing a peace officer. The charges were dropped, but she sought legal action in federal court against the guards who had attacked her. Unfortunately, the effort failed. The court refused to hear her case on the grounds that they didn’t consider her to be a resident of Canada.
Kahentinetha’s commitment to helping the cause of her people is just as strong and as visionary as it was in her youth. Here’s her daughter Waneek Horn-Miller.
WHM: She was writing about forced sterilization in the sixties. This is coming out now as a major issue. She was also writing about how we should invest in sport for our young people, you know.
KH: Yeah. Yeah.
WHM: And so it’s like, it’s pretty cool...
WHM: ...that it was like way ahead. You were way ahead of your time. She still has like an abundance of stuff going on up there, and she’s got to like write it. She’s always saying, “I’m writing a new article!”
KH: Yeah, well,
Mohawk Nation News. I’ve written about 2,000 articles. They’re out there.
JA: If you would like to read some of the articles written by Kahentinetha, please follow the link to
Mohawk Nation News, on the episode page for this podcast.
Towards the end of the visit, we asked Kahentinetha what it was like seeing all this material connected to her life, in the collections of Library and Archives Canada.
KH: There are a lot of things though that I’ve chosen to forget because of how it was so disturbing. And like my life being at risk so many times, like during Oka, and then at the border, and you know this... Four main times, and one being beaten up by the SQ [Sûreté du Québec], and really badly beaten up by them. They pulled me over and... this was after 1990, so they were pretty mad at us.
But there’s a lot of things that I decided, I think I should just put that in the past, because I’ve got to move on, I’ve got to get into this... I’ve got children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren now, and so my mind has to be clear.
So I started pushing some things back. But now it’s all come back out, so I was exhausted last night! But then it’s not a bad thing, really. Because the other thing it did too was it… not only did it remind me, but also it gave me, you know a different... things that maybe I didn’t see then and I see it now. So you know, it’s good, I think it’s good, for me. It’s a good thing.
But the terrible thing was when they blacklisted me as a non-... I didn’t even exist. That was terrible. However, I just said, “Well, I do exist, and here I am!” And I had all these children, so I will keep on existing! That’s what I did, that’s how I dealt with that, and I said, “I’m going to be a good mother and work on it, huh?”
WHM: We grew up with, like, people saying the most horrific things about her, to us, to our faces.
KH: Those were all made up, so...
WHM: Made up, really like… gross stuff, you know? And I just remember being, like, oh my God! This is not the mom we know, at all!
KH: So I never told them anything about what I had ever done.
WHM: No. And then... it’s like, you can’t, we are the best example of what type of person she is. If you are not a good person and a crappy mother and all these things they said about her, you wouldn’t have produced four daughters that are like mini-hers. Because like all my sisters are activists in their field. Like, my doctor sister [Ojistah Horn], you know, she’s amazing. She’s doing work up in Grassy Narrows where the mercury poisoning is and going up there on her own dime to fight to get more help, you know. And then my sister the professor [Kahente Horn-Miller], you know, and like my little sister, you know, the podcast maker [Kaniehtiio Horn], she’s using popular media. Like she’s always telling us, we’re a bunch of archaic older sisters, and she’s always the one telling us we have to do this, this, this and this.
And I guess that, if it’s a message to anybody it is… people won’t always believe what you say, but they’ll have to believe what you do. And your children are the greatest example of whether, you know, or, like, the people around you, what you’ve been able to do. And she used to say to us all the time, it’s like you got to go out, you got to help people, you got to help them, you got to make a difference. And even when you don’t think anybody’s listening, keep saying it, keep saying it, keep talking about it.
And to the point where like our fundamental core beliefs... and this is something that I really picked up from you, like, she had these core beliefs of what she believed, and she would still stand on them even if she was the only person, which is scary, you see… and it used to scare us when we were young because she would stand alone.
KH: I think it’s the same core behaviour... character, I would say it’s a character of the Native People that we are one family, and we have to stand together. And when somebody calls and says, “Do something,” you know that you have to do it. You can’t just go and say, “Oh well, you’re out there, you’re out in the West, so…” That call came out, and the call has gone out even further. And I think it was the same thing with her, with a lot of the things that I’ve gone through, was a call came, and I stood up for it.
WHM: Sometimes, though, it would be like, all you’d want was for her to be a sounding board, and she’d be ready like to bring in the bazookas.
WHM: And I’d be like, whoa! Me and my sisters just said like, “Whoa, Mom! Just listen! Just listen to me!” And she’d be like, ”Okay.” But yeah, she wasn’t a cookies-and-milk kind of mother, ever. She was a... even when we were kids and growing up and we’d have problems at school… little kids… she’d say, “Okay, what’s the problem?” and maybe a kid, you were having a problem with a kid or a teacher or something like that. And she would say, she’d pull out a piece of paper, she always had these notebooks always around, and she would, you know, divide the paper in half and put like, okay, so what are the pros, cons... She started to make a strategic plan for like a six year old, seven year old. “What are we going to do about it?” But the thing is that...
KH: It comes right from the Gayanerekowa, how to do that.
WHM: But the thing is that planning to do something, the fact that she sat down on the paper writing, seeing it on paper, I couldn’t understand what it said because I couldn’t read yet, but she would write it down, and she was like, okay, so this is what we’re going to do. And it made us think like there was always a possibility of doing something. Like you were never at the mercy… even when it felt you were at the mercy of someone else, there always was something you could do. And she would say, you have to think, and think, and think.
KH: And I would say, “Waneek.” She’d say, “What do I do?” “You’ve got it all on there, you figure...” “What, so, there’s this, this, this!” I said, “Waneek, figure it out. You figure it out.”
WHM: When I got older, yeah.
KH: Yeah, that’s what I would tell her.
WHM: Or she would, I would get in trouble at school, and I remember I told my teacher once that my mother was Kahentinetha Horn. And she says, “No, you’re lying! That’s not your mother.” And one time I got in trouble, and she came walking in, and I was sitting in, for fighting, and I was sitting in the principal’s office, and she comes walking in, and she looks at me, and she says, “So what happened?” I said, “Oh, he was making fun of my name and what I looked like.” And she’s like, “Okay, so where is he?” And I was sitting there all in trouble, and the kid was lying out there with like an ice pack on his head, right? I’d beaten him up. And she goes, “Well, you know you can’t always use your fists, you are going to have to use your words one day.”
WHM: She says, “But I’m glad you won!”
KH and WHM: [Laughing]
WHM: And then she would go into the principal’s office, and first thing she said was, “What kind of school are you running here? Are you, you know, raising a bunch of racists and this kind of this and this?” And then she would say that, and like I would sit there, but I’d be in trouble for fighting. I’d be in trouble for hurting another human being, but she never gave me crap for standing up for myself. It was always like, okay, eventually you’re not going to be able to do this, this is not appropriate to beat the crap out of people all the time, right?
KH: Yeah. Well, in Akwesasne, my grandson goes to school there, and he was in all kinds of trouble there. And so I had to go and stay a few days there, and my daughter had to go somewhere. So what do I do? I go to the school. And I do the same thing that I did, I walk in, and I said, “I’m his grandmother.” Everyone was terrified of me. And I said, “I want to know what’s gone on here, I want to hear about it.” So they sat around... I took tobacco, gave them tobacco. I said, “Let’s talk.”
JA: Within First Nations communities, taking tobacco to a meeting is a respectful way of asking for assistance. When someone accepts the tobacco, they are agreeing to listen openly and without judgment, and to support you as best as they can.
KH: And so they all sat there for an hour. We talked. I listened to them. And then I said, “You know what?” I said, “You have a problem with my grandson, you call me. I live in Kahnawake, I’ll jump in my car and I’ll be here in one hour.” “You would?” “Yes, I would.”
KH: He hasn’t had any more trouble. But this was very unfair, how he was being treated. Because he’s a top athlete, but he also does well in school, but he... there’s something I taught the kids, and he does it all the time, and it drives them nuts. I said, “The first thing you do in life, in anything, is the first question you ask is ‘why?’.”
WHM: Oh, and he asks “why?” about everything.
KH: About everything. And the second one is, “Can you prove that?” That’s it! And I said, “And when you do that, you’re going to have a great education.”
The biggest weapon we’ve got is the truth. Stick to the truth, that’s the only weapon we have. You keep pushing the truth, the truth, the truth. So that’s what I’ve always done, and I still keep on doing it.
JA: If you’d like to learn more about Kahentinetha Horn, please visit us online at bac-lac.gc.ca/podcasts. On the episode page for this podcast, you will find a number of links related to her story, including a link to our Flickr album, which features a selection of images from the LAC collection.
Thank you for being with us. I’m Josée Arnold, your host. You’ve been listening to “Discover Library and Archives Canada—where Canadian history, literature and culture await you.” A special thank you to our guests today, Kahentinetha Horn and Waneek Horn-Miller. Special thanks also to Madeleine Trudeau and Jennifer Roger for their contributions to this episode.
Thanks also to our talented colleagues Michelle Lacroix, Geneviève Morin, Jessica Ouvrard, Nathalie Letang and Théo Martin for their voice-over work on the French equivalent of this episode.
If you’re interested in listening to the French equivalent of our podcast, you can find French versions of all our episodes wherever you get your podcasts. Simply search for “Découvrez Bibliothèque et Archives Canada.”
Our theme song was provided by Orienteers. All other music in this episode is courtesy of Blue Dot sessions.
For more information on the archival clips you heard in this episode please consult the show notes.
This episode was produced and engineered by Tom Thompson with assistance from Isabel Larocque and Elizabeth Montour.
If you liked this episode, we invite you to subscribe to the podcast. You can do this through the RSS feed on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
For more information on our podcasts, or if you have questions, comments or suggestions, please visit us at bac-lac.gc.ca/podcasts.
[Horn, Kahntineta: Interview], 1961 / Marjorie McEnaney (interviewer)
Library and Archives Canada / ISN 487896
“Chiefs and Champions,” Episode 2, Waneek Horn-Miller, 2004 / Tribute Film Productions
Library and Archives Canada / ISN 375430