As Canadians prepare to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, Okanagan College is recognizing Indigenous graduates in a new and special way.
This year for the first time, Indigenous students who cross the stage at OC convocation and commencement ceremonies are being gifted with a specially designed convocation stole, embroidered with Syilx and Secwepemc pictographs.
“On National Indigenous Peoples Day and every day, it is critically important that we remember and appreciate the privilege it is to live, work and play on the beautiful lands of the Syilx Okanagan and Secwepemc peoples, and that we honour the history, celebrate the achievements and recognize the strength of all Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Neil Fassina, president, Okanagan College.
“These stoles are a small symbol of our commitment to each Indigenous student who studies at Okanagan College and of the critical partnerships we are building with Indigenous communities across the region.”
The stoles were designed by Syilx Okanagan and Secwepemc knowledge keeper and artist Les Louis, who has family lineage to both Lower Similkameen and Bonaparte Indian bands.
“My creativity stems from many influences, but none so important as my culture, language, traditions and mother nature,” Louis says.
One of the pictographs on the stoles is a canoe design with three figures, symbolizing the Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon Okanagan College campuses on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people. The canoe family also represents the collaboration and connection of students, faculty and staff paddling together through a graduate’s educational journey.
The second pictograph features three eagles and is a Secwepemc design representative of the Salmon Arm campus and its location on the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwepemc. The eagles are respected and revered and carry a special significance as they fly highest and are the closest to the Creator.
National Indigenous Peoples Day was first celebrated on June 21, 1996, after it was proclaimed that year by then Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc. Since then, the day has been marked across the country by local and national events, celebrations and ceremonies.
“The legacy and ongoing impacts of colonial systems in Canada and the residential schools that existed across this country continue to be experienced today, and therefore we must keep reconciliation at the forefront of all that we do,” says Dr. Fassina.
To learn more about the stoles visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/indigenization
To find National Indigenous Peoples Day events in your region please visit https://www.okanagan.bc.ca/events