Graduation gowns and medicine wheels; why many Fleming College graduates wore a medicine wheel pin at convocation
Every year at convocation, a representative from Indigenous Student Services will stand before graduates to acknowledge that Fleming College is situated on Michi Saagiig lands and the traditional territory covered by the Williams Treaty and Treaty Number 20, and thank the Michi Saagiig peoples for allowing us to work in their territory. But at this year’s ceremonies, many in the sea of graduates adorned their gown with a medicine wheel pin to acknowledge the rights of Indigenous peoples.
At the Frost Campus and Sutherland Campus convocation ceremonies, Indigenous Student Services staff and volunteers congratulated graduates before the ceremony and gave them the opportunity to sign a declaration. The declaration states, “By signing above, I am making a declaration to move forward in my professional and personal life as a person who acknowledges the rights of Indigenous peoples and will advocate for further respect towards First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples within the territory that I choose to call home.”
Each student who signed the declaration was given a medicine wheel pin to proudly display on their convocation gown. According to Indigenous Student Services, 191 graduates signed the declaration at the Frost Campus ceremony, and 700 graduates signed the declaration at the six Sutherland Campus ceremonies.
“As a college, we are collectively striving towards creating a campus culture of one that respects and honours the First Peoples of this land. This initiative, this opportunity for making a public declaration, brings us one step closer to seeing this vision come to fruition,” said Kylie Fox, Assistant Manager of Indigenous Student Services, who said Fleming College has done a lot of great work in the past few years to ensure Indigenous students and staff feel welcome and safe on campus, and is working towards a place where Indigenous peoples will begin to see themselves represented in all areas of campus life.
“Standing in the audience this year, visibly seeing our allies in the room, it was overwhelming and extremely powerful. You could see how proud students were to show their support,” said Kylie. “Knowing that almost 1, 000 Fleming graduates are moving into the workforce with this intention of honouring the rights of Indigenous peoples, I think that gives us a lot of hope for our future and it also says a lot about the type of citizens we are fostering here at Fleming. So, miigwech, thank you to all of you who supported this initiative and to those of you who signed the declaration. Niwii Kaanaaganaa, with all of my relations.”
Indigenous Student Services Coordinator Ashley Safar said the declaration will be offered annually at Fleming convocation. “This is an idea we’ve discussed for a while because we wanted to increase awareness,” she said. “And the Indigenous Perspectives Designation has gained more momentum and more schools are incorporating it into their curriculum. There’s some growth in the college and we wanted to represent that.”
The Indigenous Perspectives Designation (IPD) is an optional learning opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of Indigenous peoples, their cultures, histories, traditions and contributions to our shared society. The designation is available to students in the following programs:
- Child and Youth Care
- Ecosystem Management Technician
- Ecosystem Management Technology
- Mental Health and Addiction Worker
- Social Service Worker
- Community and Justice Services
- Customs Border Services
- Law Clerk
- Police Foundations
- Early Childhood Education.
Graduates with an IPD have a strong foundational basis in Indigenous Studies.
Several programs are currently developing curriculum to meet the IPD requirements, and a number of programs that do not offer the IPD have included the opportunity for students to take one or both GNED courses. Some programs have modified their vocational subjects to include Indigenous content.
Fleming College has a long history of supporting Indigenous learners and has relied on its Indigenous Education Council (an advisory committee made up of local Indigenous leaders) for more than two decades. Simultaneously, both Fleming’s Indigenous curriculum and support services have continued to grow. In December 2015, Fleming College formally committed to Indigenous education by signing the Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Protocol, which reaffirms Fleming’s commitment to Indigenous education and provides a vision of how the college will strive to improve and better serve Indigenous peoples.
The Indigenous Education Council at Fleming College has been active since 1992. It has included representatives from local First Nations, local community representation such as local Elders and Traditional Knowledge holders, Indigenous youth and student representation; as well as internal employees of Fleming, who are all committed to Indigenous education.