Acknowledging the Achievements of Aboriginal Graduates
Posted on June 17, 2011 by Tia Lalani
The Honouring Ceremony recognizes their academic accomplishments at Augustana.
By Petra Cegielny
On June 5, the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus held its fourth Honouring Ceremony during Spring Convocation. Three graduating Aboriginal students – Olivia Buffalo, Christopher Robblee and Gordon Naylor – elected to participate in the Ceremony that recognized their academic accomplishments at Augustana. Two Eagle Feathers and a Métis Sash were awarded by Mr. John Crier, an Augustana alumnus and Elder with the Samson Cree Nation.
“Pleasant” and “very welcoming” is how graduate Olivia Buffalo describes her time at Augustana. Originally from Hobbema, Alberta and a member of the Samson Cree Nation, Olivia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in psychology with a minor in mathematics. Olivia was happy to share the moment she crossed the stage with her family, especially her three children. She was nervous that she might trip, so she wore her moccasins just in case!
Sitting in the new library is one of Olivia’s favourite memories of Augustana. “It is very open and has a calm feeling to it,” she says. She will also remember helping the Aboriginal Students Office fry bannock. “I helped Petra cook the bannock in the cafeteria and went to class smelling like fried bannock,” she laughs. “My classmates were very polite pretending not to smell anything.”
Olivia encourages new students heading to university this September “not to be scared to get involved with activities or ask for help; the instructors are very approachable.” She also intends to continue her education and pursue a Masters in psychology.
Asked about receiving her Eagle Feather, Olivia shared that given Aboriginal People’s history with educational systems and residential schools, she found receiving this honour rewarding. It was a “proud moment for my children to see their mother acknowledged as an Aboriginal at the university level.”
Christopher Robblee from Mallaig, Alberta graduated with the Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and was the first Métis student at Augustana to receive a Métis Sash at Convocation. For Christopher, receiving a Métis Sash gave him a sense of pride. “I have earned a great honour from my Aboriginal community and they chose to recognize my achievement.”
Christopher shared that his time at Augustana was “interesting and has taught me a great deal about academia. This time has also illuminated how important education can be, and how much I enjoy learning.”
“My experience doing a senior thesis was my favourite memory,” he says. “I was part of the psychology club, where we had a number of interesting events; the most interesting being our UFC night. A class that I particularly enjoyed was Psychology of Religion, where we learned why individuals choose or are attracted to religion, and what they get out of the whole experience.”
Christopher plans to continue his educational journey and travel to Kingston, Ontario in order to pursue a Masters degree. “The program focuses on global security policy and different ethnic impressions of global security policies,” he says. “If I am unable to attend the Kingston program, I will obtain an education after-degree in order to teach high school.”
“My time at Augustana was amazing.” says Gordon Naylor, originally from Wabasca, Alberta and a member of Saskatchewan’s Muskoday First Nation. “I really became the person I am by meeting my friends and undertaking the responsibilities I had while here. This place provided me an opportunity to become a leader and to become a more social person.”
“The ability to come from a small high school with small class sizes to a small campus of the U of A with small class sizes, was a no-brainer for me. I liked being involved in activities and Augustana has a plethora of leadership positions for students to take. I was in clubs, went to sporting events, worked in a few capacities and enjoyed the occasional play whilst at Augustana.”
Gordon recalls with great pleasure two places that created his best memories at Augustana: the cafeteria and 2nd East.
“The cafeteria was a central location where people could talk, eat and enjoy endless amounts of chocolate milk. This is where some of the most absurd and creative conversations would take place. The best meal of the year (no word of a lie) is Aboriginal Taco day during International Week. I must have eaten at least 30 pieces of bannock over
the course of my academic career during that annual meal.”
“2nd East (the floor I lived on in my first year and second year) will always be my second home. This is where I met some of my best friends and spent many hours procrastinating instead of doing homework. Definitely my favourite two years of my life thus far.”
When crossing the stage at Convocation, Gordon felt, “extreme pride in both myself as an academic and as an Aboriginal person.” Receiving an Eagle Feather “is the highest honor I can receive as an Aboriginal and I am very grateful for being presented such a high reward.”
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and physics, Gordon plans to begin a Bachelor of Education degree on the U of A’s Edmonton campus this fall in order to become a high school teacher.
Augustana’s Aboriginal Students Office would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Gordon, Christopher and Olivia and wish them success in their future endeavours as they continue on their path of life-long learning.
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