'It means a lot to me': Indigenous Honour Ceremony celebrates Yellowknife grads

High school graduates at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony in Yellowknife on Saturday. (Liam O'Connor/CBC - image credit)
High school graduates at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony in Yellowknife on Saturday. (Liam O'Connor/CBC - image credit)

It was a big day on Saturday for some high school graduates in Yellowknife, as they took part in the Indigenous Honour Ceremony.

The annual event celebrates the Indigenous graduates from all of Yellowknife's high schools.

Logan Stewart, graduating from Sir John A. Franklin high school, admitted he was "pretty nervous throughout the whole day."

"It means a lot to me. I'm really glad I got to have my brother hand me the stole today," he said.

Stoles are gifted to the students each year, and presented to them by a family member or other loved one. They were designed by Karen Wright-Fraser and made with the help of some local beaders.

Logan's older brother Jonathan Stewart said it was "pretty awesome" to be part of Logan's big day.

Logan Stewart, left, with his brother Jonathan Stewart at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony for high school graduates in Yellowknife, June 8, 2024.
Logan Stewart, left, with his brother Jonathan Stewart at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony for high school graduates in Yellowknife, June 8, 2024.

Logan Stewart, left, with his brother Jonathan Stewart. (Liam O'Connor/CBC)

"I've always seen him as that little kid. But, you know, he's sprouted and he's way taller than me now. And it meant a lot to be able to be there for him and put that stole on him."

Their mom, Daisy Stewart, said she cried, "of course."

"I was the loudest in here, with my daughter," she said. "Three out of three [children] are now graduates at Sir John Franklin High School."

Madison Baggs, also graduating from Sir John A. Franklin school, said she plans to enrol in a child and youth program in Alberta this fall. The Indigenous Honour Ceremony was a pretty special thing to share with her fellow graduates, she said.

Madison Baggs, a high school graduate in Yellowknife, at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony, June 8, 2024.
Madison Baggs, a high school graduate in Yellowknife, at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony, June 8, 2024.

Madison Baggs said she enjoyed all the speakers at Saturday's ceremony, 'giving us words of wisdom and stuff like that.' (Liam O'Connor/CBC)

"It was very nice to be hanging out with them and, you know, bonding with them in this very nice gym and having great special speakers coming out and, you know, speaking to us and giving us words of wisdom and stuff like that," she said.

Tydzeh Kakfwi said he was glad to be done high school.

"But it was nice, I guess," he said.

He enjoyed the ceremony on Saturday and that it was meaningful to have his mom present his stole to him.

"She was the one who drove me to school every day when I was in like preschool, kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, you know, all that," he said.

Tydzeh Kakfwi, centre, at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony for high school graduates in Yellowknife, with his brother Ry'den and grandfather Stephen Kakfwi.
Tydzeh Kakfwi, centre, at the Indigenous Honour Ceremony for high school graduates in Yellowknife, with his brother Ry'den and grandfather Stephen Kakfwi.

Tydzeh Kakfwi, centre, with his brother Ry'den and grandfather Stephen Kakfwi. (Liam O'Connor/CBC)

Tydzeh's grandfather, Stephen Kakfwi, said it's a very different experience than his own, when he graduated in 1969 after six years in residential school.

"No one from my family was able to attend because we were quite far away from our hometown," Stephen recalled.

"So I was really happy to see Inuvialuit, Métis, Dene kids graduating here, and they all had somebody — a brother, a sister, a grandfather, a father or a mother — somebody in the family to recognize their graduation. So it was a really, really good feeling to see how much things have changed for the better."

At the Indigenous Honour Ceremony for high graduates in Yellowknife, June 8, 2024.
At the Indigenous Honour Ceremony for high graduates in Yellowknife, June 8, 2024.

At the ceremony on Saturday. (Liam O'Connor/CBC)