Beginning in the spring of 2010, the First Peoples’ House now hosts a special reception for all Aboriginal students graduating from McGill. Graduation from a university program is a great achievement for any student. We believe it is important to highlight and distinguish graduating Aboriginal students, as they are true role models to the First Nations, Inuit and Metis students of tomorrow, and are paving the way for more of these students to join us at McGill. The special ceremony is shared with family, friends, McGill staff and any others who have been involved in our students’ educational careers. Each graduating student receives a beautifully designed scarf as recognition of their achievements.
For more information on this important ceremony, please read the Reporter article published following Convocation 2011.
If you self-identify as Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit or Metis) and are graduating, please firstpeopleshouse [at] mcgill [dot] ca (contact the First Peoples’ House) as soon as possible.
On 23 March 2011, the University Senate, on the recommendation of the Honorary Degrees and Convocations Committee, approved the adoption of the graduation scarf and the wearing of these scarves by recipients at Convocation ceremonies.
The scarves are designed by Tammy Beauvais, a Mohawk designer from Kahnawake. The colours of the scarves are red and white, which are McGill’s official colours. We use the White stole to recognize graduates from certificate programs and the red to recognize graduates from degree programs.
The Eagle feather signifies high respect and the marking of an amazing/special event.
The turtle symbolizes Mother Earth and our home we call Turtle Island.
In honor of the traditional Mohawk territory on which McGill University sits, the Hiawatha Belt appears on the scarf. The Haudenosaunee, or People of the Longhouse, are historically known as the Iroquois League of Five Nations: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. With the later inclusion of the Tuscarora Nation, the Iroquois Confederacy is known today as Six Nations. According to oral tradition, wampum was introduced to the Haudenosaunee at the historic founding of the League by the Peacemaker Ayonwatha, who decreed that wampum should bring and bind peace. This Hiawatha Belt is the symbolic representation of the founding of this league. At its center is a White Pine, or Great Tree of Peace, whose roots carry the message of unity and peace in the four directions. The two lines extending from both ends of the belt represent a path of peace that other Nations are welcome to travel in order to take shelter beneath the Great Tree of Peace.