Indigenous students celebrate success at Graduation Powwow

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Indigenous students celebrate success at Graduation Powwow
WATCH: Bright colours and beating drums…some beautiful sights and sounds came from a very special gathering at the First Nations University of Canada on Thursday – May 30, 2019

Bright colours and beating drums.

About 250 indigenous students celebrated their Grade 12 graduation at a powwow held at the First Nations University of Canada Thursday.

The Prairie Valley School Division held the ceremony with help from the Regina Public and Catholic School Divisions.

“It means a lot because we get honoured and there are other cultures here and stuff so they can see us and only us,” said La’hoya Sparvier, a graduate of Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School.

She spoke at the ceremony on behalf of students who graduated.

“This one is just for First Nations, so it means a lot.”

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The powwow, in its fourth year, honoured students from Treaty Four Territory. It included a pipe ceremony, and traditional drumming and dancing.

It was a special day for Michael Sweatman too. He’s the principal and a teacher at Balcarres Community School, which is about 100 kilometres east of Regina.

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He said 100 per cent of his student graduates were indigenous.

“It’s very exciting for us to be able to bring in some ceremony and culture, into the graduation time frame of the year,” Sweatman said.

“The fact that they can get here and celebrate it in many ways is absolutely important.”

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For Sparvier, she’s ready to take on the next challenge and has plans to study healthcare at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

“I like to take care of people so healthcare and everything would be good for me,” she said.

Though Sweatman is proud of his student’s success, he does know that those who’ve reached it at his school, didn’t necessarily have an easy road.

“There’s lots of barriers, Sweatman noted. “Some of our students travel over 60 kilometres on a bus to get to school every day.”

He says his school is taking action to counteract the barriers Indigenous students face.

“We did a big art project led by a First Nations artist, where we had staff, students, and stakeholders create art in response to each of the 94 calls to action,” he said. “It allowed for lots of people from different backgrounds to truly take that as an opportunity to learn what it means to be inclusive.

“Unpacking those calls to action really makes you think deep.”

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