Courtesy Kahente Horn-Miller
Before Kahente Horn-Miller joined the cohort of professors on graduation day at Carleton University, Indigenous graduates wore common graduation robes and hats, standing in a sea of black robes to celebrate finalizing their degree.
But the associate professor and assistant vice-president of Indigenous teaching, learning, and research at the university led the way to celebrating her roots and culture by donning full regalia for the ceremony.
Following suit in recent years, ribbon skirts and traditional clothing began adorning the congregated graduates, as Indigenous students proudly showcased their heritage at the event.
“I didn’t have any Indigenous professors,” said Horn-Miller, speaking on her experience as an undergraduate. “I said that I always thought I would do for my students what was not done for me… I said, ‘I’m going to be what I needed’. And I really kept that as the basis for what I do now.”
For her dedication and contribution to Indigenous culture and knowledge, Horn-Miller was selected for the intellectual advancement award at the Celebration of Nations ceremony earlier this month, an annual gathering of Indigenous tradition, arts and culture which features an array of events, and the outstanding achievement award.
The 2022 ceremony’s theme was “Honouring Our Matriarchs: Restoring The Balance,” which included 40 hybrid events running through September 9 to 11, such as The First Ladies of Jazz concert, as well as The Red Dress Exhibit, an exhibit honouring the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A unique feature of the award selection process is previous winners for each award were tasked with selecting the next participant.
A decorated academic, Horn-Miller practices being a support for her students through mentorship and representation, along with advancing the inclusion of Indigenous pedagogy to the university curriculum.
“What it comes down to is being able to be Indigenous in an institution that wasn’t meant for us, and supporting students as they express their Indigeneity,” said Horn-Miller.
Artistic producer of the Celebration of Nations, Tim Johnson, said Horn-Miller is “a fit candidate and a very worthy recipient of the award,” which is intended to recognize the intellectual contributions Indigenous people have and continue to make in society.
“When you have people speaking the truth in a way that’s extremely eloquent, it has great power. And so for me, that’s a signature hallmark of this particular category,” said Johnson, acknowledging Horn-Miller’s achievement of increasing Indigenous content across disciplines, and institutional influence.
For Horn-Miller, the award signifies support for future Indigenous academics.
“Because you’re holding me up by giving me this award, you’re holding me (up) as an Indigenous woman in an academic institution or in the academic field so that I can support those students,” said Horn-Miller. “Setting the path forward for those Indigenous children who are yet to come to university; this is actually honouring them.”