Treaty Four grads celebrate at powwow

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 13, 2016 3:00 p.m.

The powwow featured a grand entry of high school and post-secondary graduates who were joined by family and friends.
The powwow featured a grand entry of high school and post-secondary graduates who were joined by family and friends. Photo courtesy of Amie Reid.

Graduates of Treaty 4 territory celebrated their academic achievements with a special powwow held at First Nations University. The powwow featured over 130 post-secondary and high school graduates. The students came from Regina area high schools as well as from some reserves outside the city.
More than 500 people attended the event. It was put on by First Nations University and Scott Collegiate in Regina, where the idea for the powwow was started.

“The student-organized event was meant to provide a cultural affirming opportunity to celebrate the academic accomplishments of our graduates through an Indigenous lens," says Shannon Fayant, Principal at Scott Collegiate.

Jerry Shepard, from the Whitebear First Nation was one of the dancers at the event. He's shown here with Anita Delorme who works at the U of R's Office of Indigenization.
(Photo courtesy of Thomas Chase)

The day started with a pipe ceremony, followed by a grand entry of the graduates.

“The graduation powwow was a transitioning opportunity for the universities to engage with future students and parents by hosting this event on campus,” says Fayant. “I can reiterate that many parents and spectators commented on the significance of this culturally affirming recognition (and) brought tears of pride and joy.”

The event has also served the purpose of making post-secondary education a welcoming experience for high school students.

“By recognizing these young people in this traditional way, it gives them some validation of their culture. It gives them another boost of self esteem that many of our young people need,” says Dr. Bob Kayseas, Professor of Business and Associate Vice-President, Academic at First Nations University, who has also taught in the U of R’s Faculty of Business.
The University of Regina is situated on Treaty Four and Treaty Six land. The number of self-declared Aboriginal students continues to grow and now comprise about 11 per cent of the student population at the U of R.

Indigenization is one of the pillars of the U of R’s  2015-2020 Strategic Plan, entitled  peyak aski kikawinaw – Cree for “We are one with Mother Earth.”
As for the powwow, Kayseas says having students celebrate on campus grounds will help them when it is time to consider post-secondary education.

“By bringing in the students in this setting, they can also meet instructors and take some of the unknown factor out of applying for university classes. It’s less scary for some of them,” says Kayseas who also participated in the grand entry.

There are now plans to hold such a ceremony next year.

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