Indigenous students who cross the stage at Lethbridge College’s Convocation ceremony will do so with a special symbol wrapped around their shoulders. The college unveiled a new custom-designed stole for Indigenous convocates at Tuesday evening’s Indigenous Honour Night. The stole will be worn for the first time at Friday’s Convocation.
In past years, Lethbridge College presented Indigenous convocates with a traditional eagle feather to honour their academic achievement. The decision to switch to a stole was made as an environmental measure, to help preserve the world’s eagle population. The new stole features a buffalo design.
“The design of the new Indigenous stole was truly a collaborative effort to bring together the creative thought and vision of the image,” says Marcia Black Water, Lethbridge College Indigenous Services coordinator. “The image alludes to the significance the buffalo has to the Blackfoot people and highlights aspects of traditional territory. As our Indigenous students take their walk across the stage, they carry generations of perseverance with them through their cultural ways of knowing. The buffalo stole will represent the passing of knowledge they have achieved.”
The design of the stole was inspired by a college illustration created by local artist Brent Bates in 2017 to mark Orange Shirt Day, a day that honours those affected by residential schools in Canada. The design highlights Chief Mountain, an unmistakable and important landmark in traditional Blackfoot territory.
The stole also features an image of a buffalo, which historically provided for the Blackfoot people’s sustenance and basic needs. Post-secondary education is often referred to as “the new buffalo” by Indigenous Elders, as it can provide all basic needs to a person, just as the buffalo traditionally did for Indigenous cultures.
“It is important that we continue to recognize the achievements of our Indigenous students and celebrate all that they add to our campus community,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO. “It is important to us that we work with our local Indigenous community to make all students feel welcome and provide an environment where they can succeed, culminating in a meaningful walk across the stage at Convocation.”
This year, 129 Indigenous students will receive degrees, diplomas or certificates from Lethbridge College. Those students were recognized during Indigenous Honour Night on Tuesday evening at the college.
Lethbridge College, which received the Blackfoot name Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan, meaning Stone Pipe, in 2017, provides a “Circle of Services” to its Indigenous learners that includes customized academic, personal and cultural supports. Information on the college’s Indigenous Services can be found at lethbridgecollege.ca/indigenous.