Indigenous students at Sir John Franklin High School celebrated graduation in a special way on Saturday afternoon.

Photos of past Indigenous Honour Ceremonies were put on display for this year’s ceremony at Sir John Franklin High School. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

They took part in the Indigenous Honour Ceremony, which recognizes Indigenous graduates in a traditional way by incorporating elements from the Dene, Metis and Inuit cultures.

Graduates were presented with these stoles made of mooosehide and felt, each bearing a unique beaded flower. The stoles are designed to be worn like an amauti – a parka with a large hood worn by Inuit women. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

The event started out with a feeding the fire ceremony and prayer outside the school, before moving indoors for speeches and the ceremonial lighting of the qulliq – a traditional oil lamp.

Elder Sarah Cleary prays during a feeding the fire ceremony. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

The qulliq is a very important tool for Inuit people, explained Rassi Nashalik. It is used as a heat source, cooking tool and to melt ice for drinking water.

From left: guest speaker Kyla LeSage speaks as Rassi Nashalik lights the qulliq, a seal-oil lamp used by Inuit people for light and warmth. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

“It’s almost like a furnace,” she said.

“I always say I wouldn’t be here if my parents didn’t have a qulliq – it’s a survival tool.”

Kyla LeSage, a recent University of British Columbia graduate in political science and Indigenous studies, was a guest speaker at the ceremony.

“Being Indigenous comes with many negative stereotypes,” she said.

But the Indigenous graduates are living proof that those stereotypes are wrong, she said.

Graduate Brian Johnston hugs his mother, Hovak Johnston after she presents him with his graduation stole. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

Students were presented with their graduation stoles by family members before the celebration ended with a feast.

Sir John Franklin High School’s Indigenous graduates of 2019.
Front row, from left: Lily Anavilok, Layla Baton-Dolphus, Tyberious Adjun, Dylan Hope, Dawson Giroux-Paniloo, Keegan Nayally, Brian Johnston, Grant Kenny, Meadow Munroe, Ryland Yakeleya. Back row, from left: Ariah Thomas-Ekinla, Cassandra Adamache, Laila Noksana, Hana Steinwand, Kiana Wedawin, Tiara Sibbeston-Wattis, Samantha Sangris, Dylan Erasmus. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

Editor’s note: graduates not pictured are Jessica Andre, Mary Chocolate, Seth Couch, Lucas Haluska, Laylu Judas, Joenelle Mackenzie, Carolynn Ugyuk, Kirsti Voudrach and Diana Williah.

Meaghan Richens

Meaghan Richens is from Ottawa, Ont., and grew up in Perth. She moved to Yellowknife in May 2018 after completing her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Carleton University. She writes about politics,...

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