Ex-Olympian forced to choose between marriage and Mohawk status in Kahnewake
By Linda Diebel
She could have love or community--not both.
And all because she fell in love with a white man.
Her heart and soul lie in Kahnewake on the south shore of Montreal. She understands her responsibility to perpetuate her line in a society where everyone knows the rule: don't "marry out."
The problem, she argues, is the Indian Act created a mindset in aboriginal peoples that blood is everything. They've absorbed a concept imposed by 19th century federal bureaucrats who thought they knew best.
Says Horn-Miller: "It disconnected people from our traditional system of self-government and impacted upon our identity and cultural knowledge."
Aboriginal scholar Marlene Brant Castellano agrees aboriginal traditions were different. Professor emeritus at Trent University, long-time activist and officer of the Order of Canada, she notes that, historically, when a census of Indians was taken in the 1800s, it was clear their approach to who should belong was inclusive.
What should be a happy time for the couple, with Morgan competing and Horn-Miller under contract as a CBC commentator, carries the stress of her decision.
Filmmaker Tracey Deer, a Kahnewake Mohawk, understands the dilemma. Of Kahnewake, she says: "There hasn't been a positive step forward for 100 years in terms of membership. We all want to belong and it is psychological torment to deny some people that right."
Deer's documentary, Club Native, tells the story of disenfranchisement, including that of her own sister and her sister's baby, whose birth was filmed.
"We are told over and over again, 'don't marry a white man.' And if we do, so many people are obsessed with it," says Deer. "It's all about keeping the blood pure and generations of people are not being treated equally."
If the Kahnewake Mohawks want to remain "pure" for some reason, couldn't Horn-Miller marry and remain a member while the tribe excluded her husband and children? I don't see what the tribe gains by expelling her. Are people worried that having a non-Indian around will corrupt their beliefs and practices?
For more on the subject, see Defining Who's an Indian and Native Documentaries and News.
Below: "Waneek Horn-Miller, a Mohawk, and her fiance Keith Morgan, at their Montreal home, May 29, 2008. Horn-Miller may lose native community status because of her impending marriage to Morgan, a white man." (Ian Barrett for the Toronto Star)