April 18, 2013 - 1:26am

On April 8, 2013, family, friends, faculty, staff and VIU’s Elders gathered in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre on the Nanaimo campus to celebrate some of the more than 200 Aboriginal students who will be graduating or completing degree, diploma and certificate programs in June 2013.

They were taking part in VIU’s annual Aboriginal Recognition Ceremony which has been happening on the Nanaimo campus for the past six years.

“It’s an opportunity for us to recognize both the students for their achievement but also the families of those students,” says Sharon Hobenshield, Director of Aboriginal Education at VIU. “When an Aboriginal student goes back to school the whole family goes back to school, as they are directly involved in supporting that student’s educational journey.”

The ceremony had two parts. The first was a formal event in the theatre, where students were drummed in by VIU’s Elders, before taking their place on the stage. After a welcome prayer from Elder Delores Louie, Elder Geraldine Manson spoke to both the students and families, acknowledging the hard work of the students but also the hard work of the people in the audience who had had helped ensure their family members were successful.

The formal ceremony was followed by a feast at Shq’apthut, VIU’s Aboriginal Gathering Place, where students, families and friends gathered to share food and also stories of their VIU experience.

Francine Gascoyne, who graduates with a BSc in Nursing in June 2013, was one of the students at the ceremony.

“I believe it’s really important for First Nations to be recognized like this for their achievements because there are many barriers and challenges for First Nations people to getting an education, especially when they come from small communities,” said Gascoyne. “I speak from experience as I grew up in Bella Coola. For me to come out to VIU and do this degree was huge because of all the different challenges I faced, the hardest being away from my family.”

For Gascoyne the Aboriginal Recognition Ceremony was a positive experience as the students were not only recognized by VIU but also by the Elders of Snuneymuxw and Vancouver Island.

“That was huge for me because Elders are to be respected and to be recognized by them was very special.”

Many of the students who took part in the Aboriginal Recognition Ceremony, including Gascoyne, will also be part of the wider convocation ceremonies which take place at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre on June 3 & 4.

For more information on VIU’s Department of Aboriginal Education please contact Sh'qapthut, Services for Aboriginal Students, at 250.740.6510.

Tags: In the Community

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