Confrontation over Pocahontas costume takes surprising turn

This past weekend, Waneek Horn-Miller confronted an Ottawa store owner where one of the employees was dressed up as Disney's version of Pocahontas. Horn-Miller voiced her objection, firstly with kind words and then with anger. Then something unexpected happened.

This is 'reconciliation in a daily and real world way,' says Waneek Horn-Miller

Disney's version of Pocahontas continues to come under fire for sexualizing a 12-year-old who was eventually kidnapped by the English and held for ransom. Pocahontas died at the age of 23. (Walt Disney Pictures)

This past weekend, former Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller confronted an Ottawa store owner where one of the employees was dressed up as Disney's version of Pocahontas.

Horn-Miller, who is Mohawk from Kahnawake, voiced her objection, firstly with kind words and then, she admits, she got very angry. Mall security was called and she left with her two children.

She took to social media to share her experience and after some people voiced their concerns on Fêtes en Boîtes Facebook page, something unexpected happened. 

Here is Horn-Miller's Facebook status update on the incident:

This is the front lines of this thing we call reconciliation.

As a country we are trying to reconcile a painful past that has a horrific legacy. Today that legacy is playing out in things like the fight and misunderstanding about the wearing of the Pocahontas costume.

The politicians, heads of school boards and organizations are just starting to speak of reconciliation, not just on their terms but on terms that we as Indigenous Peoples need to move forward.

What I saw yesterday was the other side of the discussion — the general public — the people that are just trying to live their lives and pay their bills.
Waneek Horn-Miller is a role model and public speaker. She has competed in the Olympics as part of Canada's Water Polo Team. (Submitted by Waneek Horn-Miller)

Yes, I understand the tired parent who is just making it to a Halloween event after being exhausted and over worked. I get the mental fatigue of all things we as parents need to consider while raising children. It's overwhelming but it's not a reason not to try our absolute best not to hand down this dysfunctional relationship to our children. They are definitely worth the work.

What I didn't understand [on October 31st] was the anger I faced.

It has been my life's work to create bridges between our cultures. First as the co-captain of the Olympic team and now as a motivational speaker and in the business world but even I react emotionally when faced with anger and obstinance. They simply wanted me to go away. That hurt a lot because it sparked inside me deep painful feelings.

My experiences and the issues that plague me are not just going to go away for me. It is always there, up close and present in my heart, mind and daily life.

I made the mistakes of reading the comments made by many people on the Buzzfeed article and my Facebook fan page. Some held so much anger and resentment.

I live to be positive change for my people, in all areas and at that moment I felt like all the work I have done over all these years to educate and build bridges was for nothing.

Well [on Sunday], I woke to an email from the store owner Danielle Soucy. She reached out to me with a lot of compassion and interest In learning more about how she can be an ally to raising awareness about something until [this Halloween] she didn't understand the complexities of.

It was so amazing to get this message so quickly.

Though it all started from a place of anger and confrontation, we seem to be finding some common ground to move forward.

This is reconciliation in a daily and real world way. It will take finding our common humanity, courage, compassion and the ability to listen.

Thank you Danielle and I look forward to creating a great partnership.

Waneek Horn-Miller's Facebook post published with permission from author.