UWinnipeg: Celebrating Indigenous achievements
With Pow Wow cancelled and The University of Winnipeg’s Spring Convocation ceremonies postponed until the fall, UWinnipeg’s Aboriginal Student Services Centre (ASSC) spent June 24-26 mailing and hand-delivering gifts to graduating students to celebrate their achievements.
First Nations students received a smudge bowl with the four sacred medicines, and Métis students received a colourful sash symbolizing pride in the Métis Nation.
“It was important to us to acknowledge and celebrate our graduates now, but this was not in lieu of the Pow Wow. We will be inviting all the grads to next year’s event so they can be honoured traditionally,” said ASSC Director of Micro-communities Andrea McCluskey.
This meant a lot to the close to 60 self-declared Indigenous graduates who completed their last semester of school studying remotely and without traditional end-of-year festivities. Some of them shared their stories in a collection of videos viewable on UWinnipeg’s Celebrating Indigenous Graduates page.
It also meant a lot to the team at ASSC to be able to connect with their students at a pivotal time.
“We’ve known these students for years, seen their families grow, shared tears and laughter, and we wanted to make sure they knew we were thinking of them,” said McCluskey. “Each and every one of these students has heartwarming stories of resilience, determination, and personal growth. It’s a privilege to be included in their journey.”
Graduates received congratulatory letters from ASSC staff and from President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Annette Trimbee, AVP Indigenous Engagement Jennefer Nepinak, and Deputy Provost and Associate Vice-President Academic Jan Stewart.
Some students also received a visit from President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Annette Trimbee, who hand-delivered graduation lawn signs in early June, taking time to connect with students and their families.
Celebrating Métis achievements
University of Winnipeg’s Métis students were invited to a Graduation Acknowledgement Ceremony hosted by the Manitoba Metis Federation to honour the accomplishments of 2020 post-secondary graduates across the province.
As part of these celebrations, The University of Winnipeg held a special pre-recorded, virtual convocation to honour Lorraine Coutu-Lavallee, June Bruce, and Agathe Chartrand, known to many as the “Dictionary Ladies” of St. Laurent.
President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Annette Trimbee conferred each of them with an Honorary Doctor of Letters.
With no funding and a lot of dedication, these remarkable women created the first Michif French dictionary as it is spoken in St. Laurent, meeting weekly to capture the unique Michif language; the endangered orally-based language of the Métis people.
“Their perseverance and generosity of spirit in keeping Michif language and culture alive and thriving for future generations is the very heart of serving community,” said Dr. Trimbee. “We are honoured that they are joining the UWinnipeg family.”
Usually the one conferring honours on others, the Indigenous Advisory Circle honoured Dr. Trimbee this spring with a virtual blanket ceremony. The ceremony was organized after it was announced that Dr. Trimbee would be moving to Edmonton this summer to become the new President and Vice-Chancellor of MacEwan University.
“I am extremely humbled that the Indigenous Advisory Circle chose to have a blanket ceremony for me,” said Dr. Trimbee. “Being wrapped in a Star Blanket is an incredible honour, and I am eternally grateful.”
The University of Winnipeg is located on Treaty 1 land, in the heart of Métis nation. Approximately 10 per cent of UWinnipeg students self-identify as Indigenous, and half of those students are Métis — among the highest participation rates across Canada, and it continues to grow.
Jennifer Cox, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
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