Kenj graduates set to take on the world as proud Anishinaabe

Dr. Brent Debassige delivers an inspirational speech to the Kenjgewin Teg Class of 2014.

M’CHIGEENG—Graduates of Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute Class of 2014 processed into the tent set up beside the M’Chigeeng powwow grounds in front of proud family, friends and teachers, ready to take up their place and make their mark on the world and their community.

“Shta-ta-haaaa! G’chi miigwech to the drum, Nwendaagenag Dewegan, for leading us in today’s processional for the Class of 2014,” said Beverly Roy-Carter, Kenjgewin Teg director of business and training, who was the master of ceremonies for the day’s event as she greeted the procession. “Welcome faculty, elders, family and guests—and most, I welcome you, our 2014 graduates as help you celebrate and share another milestone of achievement in your life journey.”

The day had actually begun much earlier than the convocation, with a pipe ceremony held at sunrise.

“It is also with great pleasure that we begin this year’s convocation celebrations with an invocation and opening thanksgiving by KTEI Elder in Residence member, Josh Eshkawkogan and the junior kindergarten students of Mnidoo Mnising Anishinabek Gamig,” said Ms. Roy-Carter. “Josh and our immersion teachers Elaine Debassige and Debbie Corbiere-Debassige have been with us throughout this academic year, supporting our language and cultural learning activities, and we are lucky as both staff and students to have them as part of our learning community.”

The keynote speaker for the address was Brent Debassige, an Ojibwe-Anishinaabe and a member of the Caribou Clan from M’Chigeeng, Mr. Debassige currently resides in London.  In 2009 Mr. Debassige began as an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at Western University. He recently entered in to the administrative roles of director of aboriginal education and lead coordinator on the Master’s of Professional Education program with a focus on aboriginal educational leadership at Western. He is also an associate editor for the prestigious International Indigenous Policy Journal.”

Mr. Debassige talked about his “10 year marathon” journey to completion of his PhD in Education at York University in 2012. “It’s been a long road to becoming an assistant professor and director of aboriginal education at one of only 15 tier-1 research universities in the entire country, Western University,” he said, recalling his the impact his aunt, the late Ann Debassige had on his journey. “In remembering my aunt, I am reminded of the value of schooling and the way she instilled the importance of education into each one of her daughters,” he said. “My journey toward understanding the importance of education began with my parents, Joyce and Nelson Debassige and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support, the support of many others, and the support—financial and otherwise—of my home community of M’Chigeeng. It’s not often that I get a chance to publicly thank all of those who stood behind me along that long hard road of my educational journey. So chi-miigwetch.”

Mr. Debassige spoke of the power of perseverance in attaining one’s goals. “Through your perseverance and support from others, you, graduates, have all officially arrived,” he said. “We survived, we thrived and we conquered. Our indelible mark is now etched on the parchment of diplomas and degrees from a variety of educational institutions affirming our accomplishments. Each and every one of you should be proud of what you have done.”

He invoked the history of the Anishinaabe. “What can I say that is worth listening to,” he asked. “After all, I am just an Anishinaabe, oh yeah, I am Anishinaabe! I am a descendent of revolutionaries, warriors, healers, leaders, champions, great and wise elders and so much more.”

“Our beauty and abilities as a people burns so brilliantly that we can always rest assured that if we put our minds to a task then we can climb the highest mountain, overcome the greatest obstacle, and achieve our wildest dreams,” he said. “Thank you, miigwetch and congratulations to all of the graduates on your amazing accomplishments.”

KTEI Vice Principal of Academics Mary McEwan presented the first set of diplomas.

KTEI Board of Directors’ Award was presented by Aundeck Omni Kaning Chief Patsy Corbiere to graduating student Daughness Migwans, graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work Program.

This year’s KTEI Educational Excellence Award (in memoriam of Sara M. Peltier) was presented to Melissa Kasunich, a graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work Program, by Mary Jo Wabuno.

The Embracing Your Educational Journey Award was presented by Lelly Crawford in memory of her father Glen Crawford to Jordon Panamick.

The R. Martin Bayer Attendance Award was presented by Brian Bisson on Mr. Bayer’s behalf to Grade 12 OSSD graduating student Dakota Bucknell.

The Executive Directors’ Award was presented by Stephanie Roy, KTEI executive director, to a deserving student demonstrating high academic achievement, culture, language and community service. This year’s 2014 award went to Travis Corbiere, graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work Program.

The KTEI Educational Leadership Award in honour of elder Lewis Debassige was presented by him to Courtney Panamick, graduate of the Culinary Management program.

The Aboriginal Institute’s Consortium Award was presented by Indigenous Faculty members Gordon Waindubence and Gloria Oshkaebwisens to students Jason Wemigwans and Joshua Wemigwans, graduates of the Personal Support Worker Program.

Elders in Residence members Alma Jean Migwans and Josh Eshkawkogan welcomed a new member to their ranks as it was announced that Edna Manitowabi had accepted the invitation to become part of the circle of Traditional Knowledge Faculty members.