by Betty Bardswich
M’CHIGEENG—June 23rd saw the graduation of 47 students in the secondary, college and university school levels at Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) in M’Chigeeng.
The event began with the pipe ceremony in the student and staff learning tipi. Thanks were given to the Creator for fresh air, clean water, animals, the stars, the moon and everything that Mother Earth provides. A special thank you was given to the Creator in honour of the 2016 graduates. This was followed by breakfast and a special elder message to the graduates in a private session.
The procession, with an opening thanksgiving song by Ojibwe Nation Singers, saw faculty first, followed by elders, then staff and graduates, all in black robes trimmed with four directions colours or Anishinabek ribbon shirts or skirts trimmed with KTEI colours or graduation red.
Next in the ceremony was the opening smudge by a KTEI elder and singing by the children of Mindoo Mnising Kinoomaage Gamig, the M’Chigeeng Ojibwe immersion school, followed by a congratulatory message and then remarks by Stephanie Roy, the executive director of KTEI.
After welcoming everyone to the commencement, Ms. Roy said, “I want to take the time to thank our visiting college and university partners who have made attending our community based graduation an important day to confer your certificate, diploma or degree. That is Sault College, Canadore College, Wilfred Laurier University and Queen’s University. Without their support, today would not be possible. These representatives work and advocate on our behalf within their institutions, exhibiting true partnerships. Miigwetch for all you do to ensure together we offer the best learning opportunities for our students. Additionally, today would not be possible without our teachers, instructors and our faculty who work directly with our students every day. I say miigwetch for the work, the passion and the dedication you do to teach our students for it has helped tremendously. Also, we have our staff behind the sciences who support all of the back end supports, paperwork, coordination and follow up so programs run as smoothly as possible.”
Ms. Roy then gave some examples of the work ethics of the students and finished her talk by saying, “We were happy to be one part in your journey and as you continue to chart your path forward for yourself and your families, I hope you visit often and keep in touch and be active community members wherever you live and become actively engaged and participate in making each and every one of our communities a great place to live and work. Your contributions will be needed and welcomed. Never underestimate the power of civic contributions to make our communities healthy and prosperous. I hope you will continue to learn, support and advocate our Anishinabek ways and identity and hold it close to your heart. Mino bimadziwin.”
Guest speaker at the convocation was language program graduate Jessica Benson who gave her talk in Ojibwe and told her audience that what makes the Anishinaabe people are the language, land ceremonies and secret oral stories. She went on to say that language tells us who we are, gives us something to feel good about and to feel pride rather than be ashamed of one’s identity and who one is.
Earning a KTEI Secondary School diploma were Jessica Aguonie and Cynthia McMaster while Ms. Benson, Cecile Migwans, Andrew Pangowish, John Turner and Patricia Turner completed the Anishinabemowin Immersion Program Certificate in KTEI partnership with Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology.
Students earning the Entrepreneurship Training Program Certificate were Katelynn Abel, Carol Aquoine, Oscar Corbiere, Maigan Fox, Bruno Henry, Mary Lou Jacko, Tashina Migwans, Clarissa Osawamick, April Recollect, Candace Shigwadja, Adolphus Trudeau, Lee Wajmer and Angela Wemigwans.
Amanda Gibbons, April McDowell, Chi ZiiBii kwe (Patricia McGibbon), Nyrha Rivers, Sunset Sagutch, Joy Simon and Jesselyn Wittig received their Mental Health and Addiction Diploma which was in partnership with Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology. There were several graduates in the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program including Lauraine Beaudin, Tia Peltier, Rebecca Reynolds-Seltzer and Jennifer Tilston with Bachelor of Education degrees, and Brenda Francis and Giselle McGregor earning a Diploma in Education.
Graduating with a Master of Social Work Degree were Dianne Debassige, Grace Debassige, Marilyn Debassige, Judith Dunstan, Gerlinde Goodwin, Steven Koptie, Elizabeth Maracle, Carrie McCutcheon, Elaine Migwans, D Lisa Osawamick, Sarah-Lynne Redgers and Jacqueline Tenute.
Several awards were handed out at the graduation ceremony with every KTEI board member making a donation for the honours. The KTEI Board of Director’s Award was presented to Brynn Trudeau in the Secondary Program for demonstrating exceptional achievement in her personal educational goals, serving as an exemplary role model in the KTEI learning environment.
The Sara Peltier Memorial Award was given to April Recollet for demonstrating exceptional commitment and dedication to her personal education goals, serving also as an exemplary role model.
Jessica Aguonie, a KTEI Secondary School graduate, received the Glen Crawford Award for demonstrating a commitment to nurturing her identity and embracing her educational journey.
The Martin Bayer Award was given to Nathan Shawanda for demonstrating dedication to school attendance and serving as an exemplary role model in the KTEI learning environment.
Patricia McGibbon received the Kino-Maage Gimaa (Executive Director) Award for high achievement in academics, culture, language, and community service.
The KTEI Leadership – Lewis Debassige Award was handed to Sunset Sagutch for demonstrating exceptional leadership qualities and also serving as an exemplary role model.
An Aboriginal Institutes Consortium was given to Jessica Benson, a deserving student and instructor, serving as exemplary role models in culture and language.