Grad photos tell stories, celebrate success
- EFN Staff | July 24, 2021
What a year to graduate. Coming off a pandemic that led to disrupted classes, remote and virtual lessons, and tons of stress, 2021 graduates will have many stories to tell their little ones when it comes their time to walk the stage.
This year also comes during the traumatic revelations of unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada. The community is in shock, but there is always hope in the next generation. And the joy of receiving that diploma or degree is one joyous step in harnessing that hope for our next ones to realize their proper place in society.
That’s why we like to celebrate our grads with our annual photo contest. 2021 turned out to have our best response ever. Pictures from north, south, east and west came in. They range from someone who graduated as a doctor, down to a three-year-old who passed her Michif language class, the variety of subjects was spectacular. The locations, colours, outfits and happy faces made it very difficult for our judges, but after a long debate, we came up with our three favourite images.
Taking first place:
Kaszy Tootoosis. The photo of Kaszy was the unanimous choice of our judges. Taken by her mother Tanya by the river in Saskatoon, the powerful image of the red dress blowing in the wind and painted hand on her face was Kaszy’s way to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls who did not get to graduate.
“I wanted to bring awareness to the issue so that is why I chose red for my dress. Also in high school, I wrote three papers on missing and murdered Indigenous women,” said Kaszy, a member of Onion Lake Cree Nation and a graduate of Centennial Collegiate in Saskatoon. “It is important to me cause my aunty Jarita Naistus was murdered in 2006.”
Kaszy made her own dress over the course of a week and her beaded cap took her three days. “I had never really done anything like that before. But I had a picture in my mind as to what I wanted and then found a Pendleton that matched.”
In these trying times of residential school graves being discovered, Kaszy’s perspective is insightful. “They let me know how fortunate I am to be able to graduate and go to university after everything that happened,” she added.
Her mom is her biggest support and always motivates her. “She is always there for me. She lets me know I can do whatever I put my mind to.” After some time off to relax, Kaszy is looking for a job then preparing for University of Saskatchewan in the fall where she is enrolled in Arts and Science and hopes to focus on child psychology.
Second place this year went to Kahley Iron. This fun shot of Kahley and her boyfriend Ruben Corrigal was inspired by a bunch of 1980’s grad pics they had seen. “My sister convinced us to try it and took the photo at my mom’s place,” said Kahley. “We had a lot of fun.”
Kahley was the valedictorian at Canoe Lake Miksiw School. “I worked hard all year on my school and to make valedictorian meant a lot. My message to the students was that we have to keep going. This graduation is just the beginning of our journey.”
Her biggest supports are mom Tara and dad Jamie. “They always instilled in me to go to school. And don’t slack.”
Kahley has a summer job lined up at North Haven Lodge in a summer camp and then is off to Meadow Lake in the fall to study at the U of S campus there. First an arts degree, then applying for law.
Coming third was Cass Bear. The power of nature and the beautiful sky really set off this image. Her photo was taken at Island Falls by her friend Harmony. “I took the photo at the falls because it has beautiful scenery and it has been there for many, many years, if that dam wasn’t there, Sandy Bay wouldn’t be a place,” said Cass. She graduated from Hector Thiboutot Community School in Sandy Bay and is a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
Her plans for summer are just to enjoy it with family, travel around, visit and stay safe. “I am actually taking a year off school to get certificates for my career that are needed. I applied for medical radiologist at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, I’ll be there for two years, then transfer to U of R for my last two years,” said Cass. “My main support system is my family, they pushed me to do my best and here I am, graduated with high marks and I’m proud of myself. I can’t wait to see what happens next, but I’m also afraid, but fear is a part of life.”