by Betty Bardswich
M’CHIGEENG—In a grand ceremony, 37 students graduated from Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) on June 25 with college certificates, diplomas and degrees. With humour and praise for the graduates, Chris Pheasant stood as master of ceremonies for the event which started with a processional song with Daawemaagenag Dewegan (all my relations drum) followed by the invocation and opening thanksgiving with elder in residence Josh Eshkawkogan and a recital of the Earth Prayer by the students of the Ojibwe language immersion school Minidoo Mnising Anishinabek Kinoomaage Gamig.
Chief Joseph Hare, the chairperson of the United Chiefs and Council (UCCM) and the chief of M’Chigeeng First Nation gave a welcome and congratulations message to the graduates, saying “It is always a good feeling to attend this kind of ceremony and extend congratulations to the graduates and to the staff and to the support staff.” Chief Hare went on to tell the members of the graduating class that he had drawn up 10 rules of work and life for getting along and for people who are not happy on the job.
The first rule was to try connecting with one’s Creator, to think good thoughts and say the Ojibwe morning prayer throughout the day, followed by the directive to remember that you are making a difference. The third rule is to be flexible in your thinking about work and the fourth is to be your own advisor as the bad attitude that is happening may be your own.
Chief Hare went on to say that the fifth rule is that if you have regrets, collect your wits and calm down and the sixth is to understand that you don’t have everyone’s ear. “The only influence you have is only yourself. You can, and should, listen to yourself. And number seven; aim to do the best job. Second best is not good enough.”
The eighth rule outlined by Chief Hare is to dress like the job is important, dress as if it matters and to do greetings on the job, to say hello. “Believe in the Creator,” he said for the ninth rule. “Support will be there in times of trouble, and lastly, keep your sense of humour and laugh out loud, like they do on Facebook. They say ‘lol’ and laughter releases endorphins.”
Stephanie Roy, the executive director of KTEI, also welcomed and congratulated the graduating students and extended thanks to the elders, spiritual teachers, the staff and the families. “This has been a journey worth the effort,” she said, “as you will enter the workplace with skills and knowledge. Also, it is very important to know who you are and most important, take a holistic approach to learning. It is important at KTEI that you walk in to your new life with pride.”
Ms. Roy also talked about the Truth and Reconciliation report and noted that this will continue to pave the way for First Nations culture and language and there will be strides to make the world a better place.
There were two convocation addresses by graduates with the first speaker being Raven White, who remarked that she loved the attire of the graduates and then spoke in the Ojibwe language and Elizabeth Edgar-Webkamigad who talked of how smudging and formal ceremonies of the Anishinabek shows how sacred their lives are. “We are really blessed,” she said, “It is in our blood DNA. It is in every one of us. Mom and Dad always told us to acknowledge our past,” she added, “but do not get stuck in the past because you will miss what is right in front of you.”
There were three students who graduated from KTEI with a secondary school diploma including Cheyenne Migwans, Montana Migwans and Sheldon Shogga while Nicholas McGraw, Sunset Sagutch, Jennifer Streuble and Elaine Trudeau received a General Educational Development diploma. Eight students received a certificate for completion of the Anishinabemowin Immersion Program. The graduates are Steven Antoine, Sophie Corbiere, Connie Manitowabi, Julie Pegahmagabow, Maajiiwan (Charles) Petahtegoose, Christine Migwans, Lynn Migwans and Raven White.
Food Service Worker Program certificates were given to Carol Aguonie, Amber Armstrong, John Cooper, Kim Eadie, Christine Esquimaux, Jeremy McGregor, Roy Madahbee, Natalie Osawamick, Marcellina Peltier, Connie Taylor and Linda Trudeau.
The graduation also saw Brendan Abitong and Stephanie Constant earn diplomas for completion of the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program while degrees in the same program were given to Bonnie Akiwenzie, Ann Marie Assiniwe, Elizabeth Edgar-Webkamigad, Shannon Kimewon, Rachel Lewis, Juliet Ozawanimiki, Julia Pegahmagabow, Judy Perry and Keelan Staats.
There were several awards handed out at the convocation ceremony. Ann Marie Assinewe won the KTEI Board of Directors award of $250 while Sheldon Shogga won the college Educational Excellence Award plaque plus $250 in memoriam of Sara Peltier. Montana Migwans took home the Embracing Your Educational Journey Award along with $250 in memoriam of Glen Crawford and Christine Esquimaux won a $100 school award that had been donated by Martin Bayer. The Executive Director’s award of $250 was given to Julie Pegahmegabow and Elizabeth Edgar-Webkamigad was given the KTEI Educational Leadership Award Plaque and $250 in honour of Lewis Debassige.
The final awards saw the Aboriginal Institute’s Consortium Award of $500 each go to student Lynn Migwans and teacher Amy Debassige and the Seven Grandfathers Award go to Cindy McMaster. This award of $100 was donated by Charles Shawanda for a deserving secondary school student.
The convocation ceremony ended with the drum closing and recessional of graduates and faculty followed by a light lunch and beverage service in KTEI’s eSpirit Learning Cafe.