by Petra Cegielny
|Graduate Michelle Durocher receives eagle feather from Elder John Crier.
On May 25th, 2008 the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta held its first ever Eagle Feather Ceremony to recognize the accomplishments of its graduating Aboriginal students. The ceremony took place during convocation and was performed by Elder John Crier of the Samson Cree Nation, who himself is an Augustana alumnus.
Receiving an eagle feather is considered by many to be the highest honour that can be awarded within Aboriginal culture. The Eagle Feather Ceremony not only honoured the students’ academic achievements, it recognized the end of the students’ current journey, and gave strength and blessing to new ones ahead. Two Aboriginal graduates were honoured, each of whom have greatly contributed to the Augustana community in their own unique way.
Michelle Durocher, originally from Alberta’s Fishing Lake Métis Settlement graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. As a Drama major, Michelle is no stranger to the Augustana stage. Many will remember her performances in Augustana’s fall/winter productions of Look and Listen
, Les Belles-Soeurs
, The Laramie Project, Unity 1918
, and Ten Lost Years
. When speaking with Michelle, one quickly learns of her enthusiasm and commitment to acting. Michelle says “my time at Augustana has allowed me to find and follow my passion”; it has “enabled me to do what I want to do – act.” Michelle is proud of the actor she is today and is thankful for her inspiring professors who challenged and encouraged her. Michelle is honoured to be the first Métis student awarded an eagle feather at Augustana and hopes she inspires others to follow their dreams. When asked what advice she’d give incoming students, Michelle says, “Don’t compare yourself to others, get involved in the community, and most importantly, just be yourself.”
|Elder John Crier, assisted by Petra Cegielny, presents Sarah Stephen with an eagle feather.
Sarah Stephen, an Inuit student from Yellowknife graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Physical Education. Skiing since the age of six, Sarah was a valuable member of the Augustana Viking Cross Country Ski Team. A four year team veteran, she participated in numerous competitions including two National Championships and placed well in the ACAC Aggregate and Alberta Cup standings. Sarah also represented the NWT at two Canadian Winter Games and competed in four Artic Winter Games. Her athletic abilities cross over onto the soccer field where she’s represented the NWT at the North
American Indigenous Games. Sarah says her time at Augustana has allowed her many opportunities to travel and experience different levels of competition. As a high performance skier, she appreciates Augustana’s experienced and motivating coaching staff that gave her encouragement and one-on-one instruction. Sarah believes that, “when you feel positive about yourself you give off positive energy to those around you” and would like to encourage students to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Sarah is also honoured to be the first Inuit student to receive an eagle feather at Augustana and hopes her achievements will encourage other students to attend university.
Now that they’ve graduated, both students plan to continue their journeys by traveling abroad. Michelle is heading to London, England where she plans to travel, work, and possibly gain some international acting experience. Sarah is traveling to South Korea and is looking forward to teaching English and living in a different culture. Augustana’s Aboriginal Students Office would like to congratulate both Sarah and Michelle on their graduation and wish them continued success as they continue on their path of life long learning.