Red River College’s Indigenous Celebration moves online

By: Arin Streeter

Lorne Stevenson performing at last year’s virtual Indigenous Celebration./Photo provided by RRC Indigenous.

The success and accomplishments of Indigenous students take centre stage on May 7 at RRC’s Indigenous Celebration. The celebration has been a staple in the college community for over 20 years, and is part of their effort to recognize and uplift their Indigenous students.

“The Indigenous Celebration is an opportunity for Indigenous students to come together in a way that celebrates who they are and their accomplishments throughout the programs that they’re graduating from,” said Isabel Bright, dean of the Indigenous Education program.

The event is a showcase of Indigenous culture and language. It will feature drummers, dancers, and presentations from Indigenous leaders.

“I think we’re missing that right now,” said Sarah Panas, communications officer for the Indigenous Education program. “We’re missing being able to gather, dance, and sing, which is very healing.”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event will be held online for the second year in a row.

“We’re trying to safely duplicate some of the elements of a powwow by asking performances to be recorded virtually,” said Panas. “But of course, there are still some elements of a powwow, like a pipe ceremony, that are meant to be experienced in person.”

Shanley Spence performing a traditional hoop dance at last year’s virtual Indigenous Celebration./Photo provided by RRC Indigenous.

Online or not, many students are still looking forward to the celebration. Sean Rayland is a 33-year-old entrepreneur in the Social Innovation and Community Development program at RRC. He said that it’s great to see the college recognize and acknowledge their Indigenous students.

“It speaks to my life journey because I just got out of jail a little over two and a half years ago. Being able to transition from there to college and having that cultural support, it made me feel like I belonged,” said Rayland.

Rayland is the founder of Red Rebel Armour, an Indigenized clothing brand that aims to reduce the rate of youth incarcerations in Manitoba. Rayland said he is honoured to be recognized by the college.

Indigenous students who registered before April 16 will be featured in a slideshow meant to represent a traditional powwow Grand Entry. Students who missed the registration deadline are still encouraged to sign up through the Indigenous Education website to receive an Indigenous stole from the college. 

“It’s really important that we remind [Indigenous students], that even as they graduate and move on, they’re still part of this amazing community and network of Indigenous alumni,” said Panas.

The celebration will be held on the Indigenous Education Facebook page on May 7. For more information about the celebration, visit its webpage.