New Convocation Traditions Honour History and Heritage
Medicine pouches and kente sashes now part of ceremonies
June 1, 2016 (Halifax) – Dalhousie University has incorporated two new traditions that offer special recognition for graduates of Indigenous and African descent into our convocation ceremonies this spring. These traditions will create a more meaningful, inclusive ceremony at Dalhousie. Medicine pouches are being presented to graduates who have self-identified as Indigenous decent and kente sashes are being worn by graduates of African decent during this weeks ceremonies.
For the first time, an Elder will join Indigenous graduates on stage during their ceremonies and, by request, present a gift of a traditional medicine pouch after they receive their degrees. “It’s a very proud moment for us,” says Geri Musqua-Leblanc, head of Dal’s recently launched Elders-in-Residence program.
Each pouch was hand made out of deer hide by Dal’s Elders and contains a mix of traditional medicines such as sweet grass, buffalo sage, tobacco and cedar leaf, which can be used for everything from offerings to smudging ceremonies. Musqua-Leblanc says it’s a small gesture with big significance. “Anything that is given to you by an Elder is of great importance and significance,” she says.
Graduates of African descent are being offered the chance to borrow a traditional kente sash to add to their academic dress for convocation. Kente cloth originated among the Ashanti people in Ghana and was traditionally worn by royalty in the West African country. Over the years, though, kente cloths came to be used much more widely and the sash variation is now a common sight at graduations and other ceremonies in Canada and elsewhere. “It is now known that this represents something to identify that they are from the black continent,” says Oluronke Taiwo, Dal’s Black student advisor, on the wearing of the sash by students.
Taiwo wears one herself during convocation ceremonies each year when she is on stage to cheer graduates, and says the Registrar’s Office suggested this year that the university offer students the opportunity to wear it as well.
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