Name: Kahente Horn-Miller
Current Beat: Mother, Doctor, Assistant Professor at the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University.
Heritage: Kanien:keha’ka (Mohawk)
Current location: Ottawa, Ontario
Describe yourself in one word or sentence: Mother, professor, performer, bridge-builder, theorist, revitalizer, rematriationist.
Today, what responsibility (if any) do Indigenous people have towards educating the rest of society? There are 94 Calls To Action outlined by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Most, if not all, have some aspect related to the responsibility of each and every individual to be a part of the process of active reconciliation. This means as Indigenous and non-Indigenous, we have the opportunity to educate each other on who we are and build bridges towards a future where we can all live together on turtle island.
You’re the mother of four beautiful girls. What have they taught you about the (contemporary) Indigenous female experience? Raising four daughters on my own and achieving a PhD has taught me that anything is possible and that it really does take a community to raise a child. My daughters have opened my eyes to the world, showed me the depth of our human existence and what infinite love is about. Without their influence, my work would not be as robust and rich in thought, knowledge, and insight. I am a mother to many, including my students.
When discussing Indigenous issues in the classroom, how do you navigate your students’ wide range of opinions, experiences and perceptions? I am always mindful of the 7 Generations Philosophy of my people. This is what guides me in my personal life and in my work. At its core, it is about a deep accountability and must always be kept in mind whenever we speak or act. The coming faces is what we call them. When I am in the classroom, I'm aware of this. I am mindful of the deep listening that these students require. Their opinions and voices are important because it is their descendants and mine that will be here 7 Generations from now. We are setting the stage for their reconciliatory relationship.
You’re a strong advocate for consensus-based decision making; an integral part of the Haudenosaunee culture. When there is resistance to this approach, how do you confront it? I rarely encounter resistance to consensus based decision making. Most participants and observers see its value, as it gives them the full opportunity for their voices to be heard, a rare aspect of our times. It is participatory democracy in action. If I do see any resistance, it is in the time required to make a solid decision. We live life by the clock. True consensus is not in 100% agreement, rather it is achieved in hearing all voices. Even those that disagree. They have a responsibility to give a dissenting view and provide an alternate solution. If their solution is not viable, they acknowledge that the decision made is with the interests of the collective in mind. Consensus requires us to move away from individualized thinking and return to thinking like a community – probably one of our biggest challenges as a people.
Divisive politics can cause fractures in a community. Kahnawake’s ‘marry out, move out’ is an example. When the stakes are so high, is it possible to acknowledge our differences respectfully? The mechanisms for respectful participation are found in the Great Law of Peace. Our ancestors left us a powerful tool for participatory democracy. It is possible to bring its key philosophy forward into the 21st century, this is called ‘adding to the rafters’. Taking the best of what our ancestors gave us and making it anew and viable for today is what I do.
What is your most identifiable characteristic?: My smile and my thoughtful presence.
‘The Good Life’ means: A life lived with respect and mindfulness of oneself and others. It is not about monetary richness, rather the richness of the natural elements and the love that you give your family and receive in return."