WIIKWEMKOONG – The gymnasium of the Wikwemikong High School was packed on the evening of Friday, August 1 with family and other well-wishers as the community gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of 103 post secondary students who have graduated from their programs of study this year.
Ogimaa Duke Peltier welcomed everyone on behalf of the band council to the event and congratulated the students and their support networks, including parents, guardians and Wiikwemkoong post secondary support staff for their success.
“It is so reassuring to see the variety of programs you have undertaken,” said Ogimaa Peltier, noting that they will be ready for employment “not only in Wiikwemkoong, but throughout the Anishinabek Nation.”
Ogimaa Peltier noted a number of older graduates and cited the community’s passion for lifelong learning as exemplified by the late Kate Assinewe.
“The skills you have acquired in your academic field will be transferred to other aspects of your life,” he said. “Your accomplishment will not only be of benefit to yourselves but also to your families.”
Master of ceremonies Dwayne Animikwan welcomed the procession of graduates into the hall as singer Danielle McDonald provided a song and elder Phyllis Williams delivered an opening prayer.
Wiikwemkoong Board of Education (WBE) Director of Education Fay Zoccole welcomed and thanked elders, parents, family and friends to the celebration.
There were two valedictorians at the graduation celebration, Tanis K from the WBE and Jocelyn Kagige from the Wii ni n’guch tood-Labour Market Services.
Ms. K spoke of her early life as the daughter of a single mother and the family’s move to Saskatchewan for work. Her mother instilled in her the values of hard work and perseverance that supported Ms. King’s own determination and drive to reach graduation.
“The statistics suggest I would not make it—being from a single parent family and Indigenous,” she said. “You do not have to be defined by statistics. We are in a position to create a new and better world.”
Ms. Kagige noted that she was born and raised in Toronto. “There are a lot of great things about Toronto,” she said, but noted that not growing up on the reservation she was cut off from her culture and language living in the big city. “I had to find those by myself,” she said.
Ms. Kagige referenced colonization and the residential school system and its impact on her early life, but that despite having set out on her academic journey with the intention of “helping my family and my community to heal” she instead she learned that “I realized that the only person that needed healing was me.”
Ms. Kagige spoke of her own struggles to complete post secondary education, noting that when she began she was not approved for funding and that she had to pay for her schooling herself. As she watched her savings dwindle while also working part-time in a restaurant she began to fail in her studies. At first she was consumed with guilt and depression, but following a stint working overseas in third world countries she returned with a new outlook and stronger determination. She eventually succeeded in gaining funding for her education, freeing her up from the stress and complications of having to support herself while attending school and was able to focus completely on her studies. She thanked the Wiikwemkoong community and the WBE for the support that enabled her to reach the first rung in her dreams.
Ms. Kagige related the story of watching a butterfly flapping its wings in preparation for flight. “You never know what direction it will go in,” she said. “But it is flying and it is beautiful.”
This year’s successful post graduates are: Katelynn Abel, Motive Power Technician at Cambrian College; Julie Assiniwe, with a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) in Nursing from Laurentian University/Sault College; Trent Beaulieu-Enosse, Line Crew Support Program from Cambrian College; Matthew Beem, Business Management-Marketing from Ryerson University; Joshua Bisson, Welding Level 1 Apprentice from Cambrian College; Jonas Bondy, Plumber Level 2 Apprentice from Georgian College; Genievieve Borg, BSc. Honours in Chemistry from the University of Guelph; Teanna Bujold, Practical Nursing from Georgian College; Mike Burke, Welding Level 1 and Level 2 Apprentice from Cambrian College; Scott Burke, Plumber Level 2 Apprentice from Algonquin College; Jeremiah Cooper, Basic Constable Training Program, Ontario Police College; John Cooper, Indigenous Wellness and Addictions Prevention from Canadore College; Justis-Lee Cooper, Dental Hygiene (DHYG) from Cambrian College; Brandon Davey, Automotive Service Technician-Level 2 Apprentice from Loyalist College; Tonia Desmoulin-Taylor, Heavy Equipment Operator Program from the Transport Training Centre of Canada; Alvin Enosse, AZ/DZ Truck Driving Training from Transport Training Centre of Canada; Michael Eshkibok, Mental Health and Addictions from the First Nations Technical Institute; Kenneth Fitzsimmons, Heavy Equipment Operator Program from Transport Training Centre of Canada; Hannah Fox, Occupational Therapist Assistant/Physiotherapist Assistant from Canadore College; Jaach Fox, Heating, Ventilation-Air Cond. Tech from Cambrian College; Karlene Fox, Basic Constable Training from the Ontario Police College; Sevana Fox, Community and Justice Service; Cambrian College; Zachery Fox-Osawamick, Opticianry from Georgian College; Emily Francis, Police Foundations from Cambrian College; Jodi Friesen, Visual and Creative Arts from Sheridan College; Mary Gaiashk, Heavy Equipment Operator Program from the Transport Training Centre of Canada; Jamie Manitowabi, Bachelor of Commerce (Hons.) Human Resource Manager from Lakehead University; Lindsay Manitowabi, Practical Nursing from Cambrian College; Alexandria Naokwegijig, Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Cambrian College; Ronald Osawanimiki, B.A in Criminal Justice Policing and Police from Cambrian College; Malcolm Recollet, Arborist Level 1 Apprentice from Humber College; Naomi Recollet, Master of Museum and Master of Information from the University of Toronto; Paula Recollet, Indigenous Teacher Education Program from Nipissing University; Samson Recollet, Industrial Mechanical Millwright Technic from Cambrian College; Tasha Richard, from Practical Nursing Program from Cambrian College; Liberty Rivers, Cook Level 2; Southern Alberta Institute of Technology; Kyleen Robertson, BA in Arts/Music from Laurentian University; Connor Roque, BA (Hons) in Medical Science from Western University; Ramona Shawana, BA in Early Childhood Studies from Ryerson University; Noodin Shawanda, Specialized History from Algoma University; Shyaya Shawanda, Pre-Health Science Program from Cambrian College; Alexandria Shawongonabe, Dental Hygiene from Canadore College; Candace Shigwadja, Medical Office Administrator
From Canadian Career College Inc.; Sara Souliere, LL.M. in Energy and Infrastructure Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University; Noah Souliere-Lamb, Police Foundations from Durham College; Cheryl Lynn Tremblay, Health Care Aide/Nurse Aide from the University College of the North; David Trudeau, Electrician Level 3 Apprentice Georgian College; Dustin Trudeau, Hairstyling from Sault College; Joshua Trudeau Sirvage, Pre-Trades from Cambrian College; Allysa Van Den Broek, Daughter of Richard and Angel Van Den Broek Program: BA Arts-French major from the University of Fraser Valley; Martha Wabegijig, BA (Hons.) Commerce from Fanshawe College; Brooke Wakegijig, Bsc. Nursing from Lakehead University; Tonya-Leah Watts, Biomedical Science and Indigenous Studies from Trent University; Kristen Wemigwans, Binoojiinyag Kinoomaadwin Native Early Childhood Education from St. Clair College/Anishabek Educational Institute; Pierce Wemigwans, Electrical Level 1 Apprentice from St. Lawrence College; Raegan Wilkin, BA (Hons)-Criminal Justice (Criminology Stream) from Nipissing University; and Cory Young, Addictions and Mental Health Program from Canadian Career College.
Graduates receiving Dream Catcher Awards were: Natasha Cooper, Roxxane Mandamin, Shawna D’Antimo, Jacqueline Odjig, Carrie Davis, Lauren Poeta, Erin Fairbairn, Zachary Mandamin, Curtis Fox, Ramona Shawana, Tahnee Huang and Joshua Trudeau-Sirvage.
Graduates receiving Three Fire Awards included: Joshua Bisson, Ryan McEwen, Tammy Bondy, Richard Mitchell, Lyndsay Brisard, Christal Ouimette, Nicole Corbiere, Jonathon Peltier, Austin Di lulio, Marcie Tabobondung, Michelle Elliot, Sharlene Webkamigad, Ethyn Kaboni, Ngwaagan Whitehawk-Eshkibok and Melissa Gravelle.
Part-time awards were presented to Natalie Daniels and Brandon Pitawankwat.
Wikwemikong Board of Education Awards given to one college and one university student went to Adryan Pangowish and Autumn Cooper.
Special Awards were then announced. The A & V Heating Award to a continuing student went to Christopher Cooper.
The two Department of Lands and Natural Resources Award to a graduate student in mining, fish and wildlife, environment or forestry went to Danielle Shawana-Trudeau and Nicole Corbiere.
The Holy Cross Mission Award to a continuing student went to Shane Bondy.
The two Staff of Nadmadwin Mental Health awarded to continuing student in mental health or social worker was awarded to Warren Manitowabi and Paige Cooper.
The Manitoulin Expositor Award to a student in the media program was awarded to Rebecca Watkinson.
The Ngwaagan Gamig Recovery Centre Award to a deserving student in social work, mental health and addictions worker was awarded to Jonathan Peltier.
The Laurentian Business Products Award to a student in the business field went to Lyndsay Brisard.
The White’s Shell Garage Award to a continuing student in the field of technology was awarded to Jordan Lee Ferguson.
The Wikwemikong Tribal Police Award to a graduate/continuing in police foundations was presented to Randy Pitawanakwat.
In Memorial Awards the Veronica Jacko Award to a graduate in nursing was awarded to Nicole Mathias.
The Arthur Jacko Sr. Award to a new student in police foundations was awarded to Apryl Pangowish.
The Agatha Manitowabi Award to a continuing student in Anishnabemowin was awarded to Miisheen-Meegwun Shawanda.
The David Manitowabi Award to a student in environmental studies was awarded to Nicole Corbiere.
The Don Hamilton Memorial Award to two students in the field of education was awarded to Honesty Manitowabi and Christina Kozeyah.
The Francis Raymond Trudeau Award to a student in business was awarded to Lynda Trudeau.
The Paul M. Williams Award to two continuing students in sports and recreation was awarded to Jamie Mader and Roxxanne Mandamin.
The Mooseguy (Moses) Trudeau Award to a student who lives a land-based lifestyle was awarded to Taylor Peltier.
Collen Wassegijig delivered the closing remarks before the mortar boards soared skyward and Ms. McDonald sang an honour song as the graduates processed out.
Attendees were then invited to enjoy light refreshments and fellowship.