Waneek Horn-Miller knows what it means to be a competitor.
You could possibly argue that she has been competing all her life.
That’s why it was a simple decision to say yes when she was approached to affix five other elite Canadian athletes to mentor a team of on a regular basis Canadians for a recent CBC reality series. “Canada’s Ultimate Challenge,” promoted as “the country’s largest obstacle course,” premieres Thursday.
“I used to be absolutely honoured to be a component of the coaching staff,” Horn-Miller said in an interview.
“Whenever you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with Super Bowl champions, Olympic gold medallists, some of the decorated Olympians in Canadian history, a three-time Olympic speedskater … I mean I went to 1 Olympics and I got here in fifth so I used to be like, ‘What am I doing here?’”
Horn-Miller is referring to the incontrovertible fact that her team of Canadians will likely be up against squads led by Super Bowl champ Luke Willson, two-time Olympic gold medallist Donovan Bailey, six-time Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, Olympic speedskater Gilmore Junio and Jen Kish, the previous captain of Canada’s bronze medal-winning women’s rugby sevens team.
“I could not have an Olympic gold medal, but I actually have an incredible amount of experience in life that I can hopefully help my team with,” Horn-Miller said.
That have can’t be understated. The previous athlete and mother of three survived a near-fatal stab wound through the Oka Crisis in 1990 when she was just 14, during a standoff between Quebec police and armed forces and the Mohawk communities of Kanesatake and Kahnawake over plans to expand a golf course across land sacred to the Mohawks.
It was a moment captured ceaselessly by a photograph that continues to seem in newspapers across the country.
Horn-Miller says it wasn’t the primary or the last time she has stood up for Indigenous rights in Canada.
“There’s a two-tier justice system for this country,” she said. “We took a stand against a golf course being built on top of our traditional burial ground and the Canadian government sent in additional military to our two communities, which we didn’t the first step foot off of.
“I feel Oka is opportunity to flash back to a vital battle that happened right here in Canada.”
Horn-Miller is remembered for an additional picture: a photograph taken a decade after the Oka Crisis, snapped after she became the primary Mohawk woman to compete at an Olympics when she qualified for the Sydney games in 2000. That’s when the co-captain of Canada’s water polo team posed naked for a Time magazine cover with only a strategically placed water polo ball. She says she posed due to her desire to alter the best way Indigenous people and, more specifically, Indigenous women were being presented.
“With residential schools and plenty of intentional efforts to make us ashamed of ourselves and our bodies … to hate ourselves … that is your likelihood to assist change that,” Horn-Miller said, crediting a conversation along with her activist mother, Kahn-Tineta Horn, as being the deciding think about agreeing to the photo shoot.
“She said, ‘Your body is powerful and powerful and you could have a likelihood to indicate a really different image of who we’re, and the gorgeous and powerful lineage that we come from.’ It also pertains to that hyper-sexualization of Indigenous women, that exoticness of girls of color. She didn’t want to depart any room for misinterpretation.”
Taking her mother’s advice to not smile for the photo despite the photographer’s best efforts to get her to, Horn-Miller said she continues to be pleased with her decision to model as a determined woman as a substitute of somebody overtly sexualized. It also allowed her to rise up against being presented as a victim within the Oka photo.
“Having that (Oka) picture and having no control, after which getting a likelihood to do that photo, it was a possibility to alter just a little little bit of that for myself.”
It’s the identical reason Horn-Miller decided to recreate the duvet in 2019 with Indigenous photographer Nadya Kwandibens.
While working on a project about knowledge translation while pursuing her master’s degree in Indigenous studies and kinesiology on the University of British Columbia, Horn-Miller decided her own life presented the perfect case study.
“I used to be attempting to portray an older, wiser and more battle-scarred woman. That’s form of what I actually have been through within the last 22 years,” she said.
Horn-Miller hopes these battle scars will help propel her team through the assorted competitions on “Canada’s Ultimate Challenge.”
In fact, she couldn’t say whether her team will emerge victorious.
“We definitely win within the realm of a team that has among the most incredible human beings on it,” she said.
“If I take a look at what I feel winning is, there’s the Western concept of winning, which is the tip goal and getting the massive prize, but I attempted to instill an Indigenous concept of winning, which was when you enter this challenge and when you give me absolutely the whole lot inside your spirit, in your body and in your mind, then regardless of the consequence you could have already won.
“That’s what my team showed me.”