As part of our Indigenous education series, our second story this week focuses on the grade seven and 12 Indigenous achievement ceremonies. If you haven't read the first story from yesterday, check it out here.
Every year grade seven and 12 Indigenous students are celebrated as they complete a major milestone and finish elementary or secondary school; this is in addition to the regular graduation ceremonies. This is part of the Indigenous culture as we celebrate and practice honouring the next phase of their life.
This year, it is expected that 149 students will move forward to grade eight and 104 students will graduate from grade 12. A potential increase to 63 per cent grade 12 graduation rate this coming June 2019, a continued upward trend from the last five years.
Both ceremonies started by drumming in the students and singing the Coast Salish anthem.
"Thank you to the parents, aunties, uncles, other family members, elders and friends for all that you have done to support these students in their journey to this day," says Jody Langlois, Associate Superintendent to the grade seven graduating class. "We appreciate that you have entrusted us with your children's education and look forward to continuing our journey together as these young people move into grade eight."
At the grade 12 celebration, in honour of Musqueam tradition, a witnessing ceremony took place. "We call witnesses to be the keepers of our history when an event of historic significance occurs in the Coast Salish world," explains Elder Larry Grant of the Musqueam nation. "It's an honour to be chosen as a witness because it comes with great responsibility."
Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman, Chief Leah George-Wilson from Tsleil-Waututh nation, Latashkenim from Squamish nation and Shelley Johnson from Saulteaux nation were called to be witnesses at the event.
The key note speaker Christie Lee Charles spoke at both grade seven and 12 ceremonies. Charles is a member of the Musqueam nation and was officially appointed as Vancouver's 5th poet laureate at Vancouver City Council last year. Charles congratulated the class of 2019 and recognized them for their heart and effort for making this day possible.
Students and families also had the opportunities to enjoy Indigenous cultural performances. Grade seven students and their families watched the Kolus dance, a family group who share the songs and dances of their Namgis, Tlowitsis and Mamta'gila nations to teach traditional values and expand knowledge First Nations people. Grade 12 students and their families enjoyed performances from a Metis fiddler, traditional Metis dancers, as well a Pow Wow dancer.
Certificates were gifted to each attending graduate by their Indigenous Education teacher and Worker and District staff. Each student had an opportunity to thank those who supported them on their learning journey. The evening concluded with a feast shared by students, staff and families as the sun was setting outside.
Congratulations to the class of 2019!