Sir John Franklin High School’s Indigenous honour ceremony for graduating students took on a new, outdoor format on June 12 to comply with social distancing requirements.
The “drive-by” event allowed families of the graduates to come and go when they wanted, pose for photos and feed a crackling fire with pouches of tobacco that each family received.
Twenty-five students were registered to attend.
Indigenous leaders and students also performed a drum ceremony by the fire.
“We’ve done Indigenous honour ceremonies for years, but usually it’s done inside the gymnasium,” said Principal Dean MacInnis. “The parents like this because of the flexible structure. The focus is on the kids, not the event.”
Channel Lafferty Piro said he was glad to be graduating.
“I’m working at the Ford dealership now and I plan to work on my apprenticeship in auto mechanics,” he said.
Deneze Nakehk’o came with a large group of family members to celebrate the graduation of his daughter Lucia.
“I’m happy this is going on,” Nakehk’o said. “This whole education system wasn’t designed for Indigenous people so we have to carve our own niches so our young people thrive. It’s a nice opportunity to show their pride through their jewelry and clothes.”
Damien and Shelby Lafond, who are brothers represented their Inuit heritage by wearing Inuit-style clothing at the honour ceremony.
“This is quite rewarding after a long year. I’m grateful we can have these opportunities now after three semesters of dealing with the pandemic,” said Damien. “I’m Inuit, so a lot of this isn’t part of my tradition but I’m happy to be part of the community of Yellowknife and Canada.”
Sir John’s regular graduation ceremony is scheduled for June 24.