Thursday, June 12, 2008

First Aboriginal Grad

Tonight, I had the great honour of attending the first (annual) Aboriginal Graduation ceremony for Edmonton Public Schools. It was hosted at Jasper Place High School and celebrated 164 Aboriginal graduates. The evening began with a pipe ceremony-the first I had ever attended. It was a very powerful experience and I found myself on the verge of tears a few times. Next there was a dinner and at the table with me were 2 constables from the RCMP and an officer from EPS, the Chief of Enoch, 3 elders, the Principal of the school at Enoch and several members of EPSB. The graduation ceremony featured prayers, dancing by the elementary students of Prince Charles, drumming and singing, and some incredible, heartfelt and honest speeches. Willy Littlechild was there to share his words of wisdom and encouragement. (Here's one link to Willy's work with the UN.
http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/aboriginalplanet/archives/orphans/un_story-en.asp)

The evening concluded with a round dance, with graduates, parents, friends, elders, dignitaries...all alike, all joined hand in hand moving around the gym. It started as a line and as more and more people joined in, we eventually made a huge circle. At the moment when the last two hands joined, there was a noticeable feeling of unity. People were grinning and several let out whoops of joy. I felt lightened and proud to be in such great company.

I know there is so much work to do in the area of Aboriginal education, but I felt tonight like with the synergy of all the events---both locally and nationally--- of this past week, that we have indeed turned a corner. We have joined hands finally and are all in the same circle. Congratulations to all the planners of this historic event. Congrats to the grads who will lead the way and inspire so many more to follow in their footsteps.

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