Indigenous students at Sir John Franklin High School celebrated graduation in a special way on Saturday afternoon.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Students were presented with their graduation stoles by family members before the celebration ended with a feast.
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.