To our Graduates:
To all our graduates in 2021 we honor you. We are so proud of everything you have accomplished. From the pre-k to the PHD, you have seen your studies through a time unlike any of us have ever known. You have struggled through shuffling your google meets, the internet going out, your kids distance learning, and endless states of anxiety and unsure of the future. It has been hard.
When we look back at the lives of our grandparents, we see that education is not simple. It has often been a tool of oppression and cultural genocide. When we look at our lives, it is a tool to gather our futures and provide for our families. It is complicated.
Inside of all of us is the experiences of our grandmothers, science now supports what we have always known. Their struggles live inside us, their Resilience lives inside of us. After this experience of completing your degree, that Resilience too lives inside of you. The memory of it is with your children and grandchildren. This is how we move.
There is a whole theology about how we, as Native people, live in two worlds. The white world and our own. I would challenge us to instead see ourselves as people at the confluence of those worlds. We are whole full humans on our paths. When we bring our whole selves to the table that is when our heart can be along, this is where our success lies, our fulfillment rests, and where we THRIVE.
I have a cast iron kettle I inherited from the late Jim Northrup and his amazing wife Pat. I have often imagined the first Anishinaabe, let's say KWE (woman), who saw that kettle. I think she thought to herself how amazing it would be to have this tool. She worked very hard to get it. And she did not check herself at the door. She knew she was a person of the confluence of worlds. She took that tool and did what she knew Better.
So as you gather this degree, this kettle, I hope you can carry it forward as a whole person. Knowing that what you bring to the table is enough. That we are proud of you.
Your decisions are so powerful. You have made difficult decision after difficult decision to get here. You have changed the course of your future, your children's, and your grandchildren's, as well as rippled out into everyone you know. That is how powerful you are. We are proud of you.
I want to honor and thank everyone who supported you. This has been hard. Everyone who picked the kids up from daycare, drove them to practice, offered you words of encouragement, and was there for you. I also think we should honor those who can't support you. There are many people who will be incapable of being happy for you. Let their low expectations be a bar you easily jump over.
My mentor, Louie Gong, shined a light on me and our futures seven years ago. He believed in his dreams and knew he could support mine. I couldn't see it. I didn't know that long ago I had decided dreams for little rez girls should be small. But I want you to know today I was wrong. Dream big ridiculous dreams. Let them carry you. Let the light of others shine on you and shine light on others you see. Let that light shine on your futures.
You don't have to have it all figured out. Hell, I sure don't. But I am just a girl from the rez who grew up in my grandma's house living my silent dreams. You are enough.
You are amazing.
We are proud of you.
-Sarah Agaton Howes, Heart Berry CEO and Artist