“Now you have a degree, and I believe that is good. But I also believe your first degree is who you are. Here is the road that is in front of you. What are you going to do with all this knowledge?”
These were just some of the inspiring words of Kanien’kehá:ka. Elder Otsi’tsakèn:ra Patton Niioié:ren who, along with his wife Niioié:ren Otsi’tsakèn:ra Patton, kicked off the 2022 Indigenous Graduation, organized by the Otsenhákta Student Centre.
The celebration — held in person for the first time since 2019 — was an intimate and moving gathering meant to celebrate the accomplishments of recent First Nations, Métis and Inuit Concordia graduates.
“The Indigenous graduation ceremony is a wonderful occasion to honour and lift up the leaders of tomorrow and celebrate their academic success,” says Manon Tremblay, senior director of Indigenous Directions. “Heartfelt congratulations to all graduates and all the best wishes for their future endeavours. I am sure we will hear great things from these very talented individuals in the not-too-distant future.”
Each graduate received graduation stoles, burgundy satin scarf-like garments worn over the shoulders. The stoles feature a feather graphic on one side, which signifies high respect and marks a unique and special event in Indigenous cultures. A Concordia logo appears on the other side.
The event also featured remarks from distinguished graduates Victoria May, who completed a Master of Arts from the INDI Program (Fine Arts) as well as Craig Commanda, who graduated with a BFA in Film Production. Commanda shared wise parting words for his fellow graduates: “Remember, you can be anything you wanted to be. You are only limited by your imagination, which is limitless.”
Kathleen Kaherine Gilbert | BA Anthropology
What were some of the highlights from your time at Concordia?
Kathleen Kaherine Gilbert: By attending Concordia I've met people from diverse backgrounds and that allowed me to make lifelong friends. Also, being able to see how I've changed from year one to now, I feel that I've accomplished so much and gained valuable skills that I can use beyond university.
How does it feel to be graduating?
KKG: I've sort of become a seasoned grad from Concordia, as this is the third time I am going through the process (BA in 2017 and certificate in 2019). I feel a sense of accomplishment and want to express my appreciation to everyone I've met. I value everything I've learned and the new skills I've acquired, but at the same time I am saddened to be leaving.
How has the Otsenhákta Student Centre played a role in your life at Concordia?
KKG: The Otsenhákta Student Centre was my home away from home, and without their support I would not have made it this far. They were there throughout all the highs and lows, ready to offer support. They helped me become a better student and I've met such incredible people thanks to the centre.
What’s next for you after graduation?
KKG: Ideally, I can continue to expand my knowledge, but I have not found anything that captures all my interests in regard to graduate studies. Whether it be in an academic setting or not, I do hope I can continue learning.
Craig Commanda | BFA Film Production
Craig Commanda: The workshops that were put on at the Otsenhákta Student Centre. Beading, stained glass, animation and more — it was great to be able to take part in these things with my friends. Another would be the soup and bannock days that I was a part of, feeding everyone at the centre with yummy, nutritious food.
CC: It is such a relief to be able to graduate and lift the weight off my shoulders and mind. I made it over the finish line, and I couldn’t be happier that I persevered.
CC: The OSC played a huge role in my life at Concordia by connecting me to community, which became my strength over the years. Without it, I don’t think I would have succeeded. Indeed, I would say it has altered the course of my life, with the new skills and relationships I have made there.
What’s next for you after graduation?
CC: Diving full-on into my arts practices, which exploded while finishing my degree. I got into beadwork, and I took to it like a fish to water. I’ve had four exhibitions of my work so far, and things show no signs of slowing down.
Learn more about the Otsenhákta Student Centre and Concordia’s Indigenous Directions.
© Concordia University