IYA Grad December 2019

Honouring Our Graduates

As we get closer to the beginning of summer, I am reminded of all the people who are graduating from milestones in their life. I think of our Indigenous Youth Ambassadors and how we were not able to celebrate their accomplishments together during the 12-week program. Not only does this affect our students, but it also affects many students in our communities who are graduating elementary school, secondary school, post-secondary education, or receiving a trades certification.  

The finished product – a cedar woven grad cap.
Xw7umtneet Alexandrea Burns weaves grad caps at the elementary school in Capilano

In my community, we take milestones very seriously. Similar to the past where we had rights of passage with our youth, and “graduating” them to the next phase in life and then taking on a skill to help the community and their family. After years of practicing their trade and perfecting the techniques, they then become a “Master”. Celebrations include grand feasts for all, in Squamish Nation we are blessed to have the ocean and the land to harvest our food. Some delicacies that would be shared are oolican, salmon cheeks, and venison which is my favourite. Honourees would be wrapped in a blanket symbolizing the community’s love and protection surrounding the wearer.

With each generation we get stronger!  My grandmother, whose highest level of education is from when she attended day school as a child, is no longer with us and passed at a young age. My mother and aunts all graduated high school and some went on to gain certifications later in life. I graduated high school and entered into post-secondary right away. My dream is for my nieces and nephews to go even further; to continue with the path of education and gain skills and abilities to better themselves and our community. 

We at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre put our hands up to each and every one of you for all your hard work and dedication to your efforts in your education. 


Written by Cheximiya Allison Burns Joseph, Manager of the Indigenous Youth Ambassador Program

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