Graduates use ceremony to bring attention to MMIWG
- Kaitlynn Nordal | August 15, 2019
Three friends sparked some controversy right before their high school graduation when one of them approached administration about wearing more than just a suit and tie to the ceremony.
Aden Bowman Collegiate student Nolan Knighttraveller got the idea to wear the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls symbol on his face during the ceremony after seeing on social media First Nations peoples getting their rights taken away for wearing traditional regalia or feathers to graduations.
He decided to wear the MMIWG symbol on his face –along with traditional regalia- out of solidarity for those who have went missing but also out of worry that the same thing could happen to his sisters.
“The way I thought of expressing myself is bringing awareness to a topic that isn't discussed more in Saskatoon and in my school particularly. I thought it would be a good idea to express myself and my traditions and beliefs by putting on face paint for my graduation and it would be a good silent showing of a message I care about,” he said.
Out of respect, Knighttraveller approached the vice principal of his school, Marnie Ross, to ask permission to do this. Following protocol, Ross approached principal Paul Humbert and the superintendent of the school about Knighttraveller’s plans.
“It was interesting for us because ... this is new territory. We have never had a request such as this one so it really made us think deep down is this the right form to make a statement like this and what's the best thing for Nolan and the students involved in the whole school in terms of the graduation ceremony,” said Humbert.
Knighttraveller also asked around if anyone else would do this with him.
Two of his friends Brendon Buffalo and Teddy Shingoose agreed if they were given permission.
In the week between asking and the ceremony, their plan was met with hesitation in three separate meetings with staff, Knighttraveller and his grandmother. They were worried about it taking away from the other graduates or people not understanding the message the boys were trying to convey.
“At one point they said we wouldn’t be able to graduate if we put the face paint on and walked across the stage,” said Shingoose who wanted to participate as his aunt is currently missing.
Buffalo also felt it was an important cause to bring awareness to.
“In high school, you don’t get to express yourself fully as an Indigenous person or bring light or do anything surrounding politics, so I just tried my best to bring awareness to that crisis,” he said.
After consideration, the students were given permission to wear the symbol and traditional regalia.
“Any time there is change in what we are doing we want to make sure we are making good decisions and go through the process,” said Humbert. “When you go through the process you end up making the best decision. We feel we did that by working with the family.”
Knighttraveller is happy they said yes and felt there was a moment of mutual respect as he shook Humbert’s hand when getting his diploma on June 27.
“I did it because I felt like something needed to be done even though it's something as small as painting your face it puts the meaning of it in someone else's mind. I don’t have to yell it at them they just have to look,” said Knighttraveller.