Walking into the lower gymnasium at Forest Lawn High School on June 7 for the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Graduation was an exciting and awe-inspiring moment. Over 400 chairs were set-up in circular layers for the ceremony, with the inner most circle reserved for the Elders, graduating students, Master of Ceremonies Tim Fox and Diversity and Learning Support Advisor Shane Cunningham. In the next few rows were families, friends, First Nations, Metis and Inuit Graduation Coaches, school representatives and Calgary Board of Education senior leaders.
The circle recognition itself was heartwarming, beginning with Grande Entry, stories from Elder Leonard Bastien, and the gifting of medallions to graduates by the CBE’s Elder Advisory Council. Graduates then took turns introducing themselves and acknowledging those who have walked alongside them in their learning journeys. Frank and Darcy Turning Robe provided drumming throughout the evening and continued the tradition gifting the CBE Graduation Honour song to graduates to honour their accomplishments as they move into the next phase of life.
After the circle recognition, graduates and guests moved outside to have beautiful pictures taken in front of the tipi that had been set up by Darren Weasel Child and student volunteers earlier in the day.
All guests then entered the cafeteria, which was subtly decorated with artwork that had been created by Indigenous students from across the CBE, natural items and table centre pieces made by students from Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School. After a blessing by Elder Marion Lerat, guests enjoyed a delicious meal of stew and fry bread that was lovingly made and served by students and (culinary) staff from Forest Lawn High School.
The event came full circle with an incredibly fun Round Dance in the outdoor courtyard. The Round Dance had been planned to take place in the gym, however with such a beautiful evening, the entire guest list congregated outside to complete the evening in perfect harmony.
A heart-felt thank you goes out to the staff and students at Forest Lawn High School for hosting this event, as well as Principal Darren Dyck for his flexibility and leadership.