Glorious summer weather and a new powwow arbour built on the grounds of Wapanohk Community School made the fifth-annual Leslie W. Turner Traditional Powwow honouring University College of the North (UCN) graduates June 15 one to remember.
“We can do anything as Indigenous people,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “We can get university degrees, we can get lawyers degrees, we can get doctor degrees, we can get teaching degrees because of who we are, our heart, our soul. It’s because we are a people of strength and power. Congratulations graduating class of 2019. You made us proud.”
“This ceremony celebrating you is also a chance for your family and friends and communities to celebrate with you,” said Thompson MLA Kelly Bindle. “It’s an important day. It moves forward your commitment to preserving and promoting your culture and also your goal for self-determination.”
Speaking on behalf of UCN, dean of students Jacqueline Fitzpatrick said that the graduates were the foundation of their communities and nations and had great responsibilities for the rest of their lives.
“You are now mentors to those coming behind you so always be mindful of how you walk the rest of your journey after today. You kneed to continue to challenge yourselves to grow daily and live life with intention. It is only through lived experiences that we can begin to see our world as it is and this can be a powerful validation for each and every one of you. I hope today teaches you that you are enough and that you continue to reach for the stars.”
Time was also taken to acknowledge the contributions of Wapanohk teacher J.J. Bujold, who spearheaded construction of the arbour and took days off work to finish the project in time for the powwow.
“He was determined that it was going to be finished for today,” said School District of Mystery Lake Cree and cultural co-ordinator Ron Cook, who came up with the idea of an arbour on the school grounds in 2017, and presented Bujold with a gift of tobacco, sweetgrass and an eagle feather. Bujold also received a picture and a stole and then received congratulations from a long line of well-wishers.