The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    New Native American/Indigenous cultural commencement ceremony

    Sonoma State’s upcoming spring graduation will feature its first recognized Native American/Indigenous (NAI) Cultural celebration.

    Following some consideration from the NAI association and Sonoma State’s community, the university decided to implement this distinguished event to graduations in the future. The first annual Native American/Indigenous Graduation Ceremony will be hosted just a couple days prior to the university commencement ceremonies.

    The time and date for the ceremony is still to be determined, however the celebration is planned to take place in the ballrooms of the Sonoma State Student Center. 

    On top of the university graduation, this gives graduating students part of the NAI community an opportunity to attend their own separate ceremony and commemorate their accomplishments. 

    The Sonoma State website states, “SSU students, staff, and faculty coordinate the Cultural Graduations that complement (not replace) the university’s commencement ceremonies.”

    In years past, there have been a number of Cultural and Affinity graduation celebrations planned. Some of which include recognized ceremonies for African Americans, LGBTQIA members and other cultural groups. 

    However, the Native American/Indigenous community had always been meshed with the Asian/Pacific Islander and Middle Eastern Graduation ceremony. This caused some disapproval and prompted members of the NAI community to advocate for their own graduation ceremony.

    The NAI ceremony came to form through the help and support of a few individuals within the community. Director of the Native American studies department, Erica Tom served as a strong influencer in bringing this ceremony to fruition.

    Erica Tom shared her gratitude towards her colleagues who helped pave the way for this event, “I am including my colleague, Dr. Mary Churchill, and the students who are the energy and direction behind the first Native American & Indigenous graduation, Cambria Whipple, Alexis Britton-Dalson, and Christina Gomez.”

    Erica Tom went on to express additional appreciation for Sonoma State professor, Dr. Mary Churchill, “I am grateful to my colleague, Dr. Mary Churchill, for her ongoing support and guidance in the development of opportunities for our Native American & Indigenous students.”

    Dr. Mary Churchill teaches in Women’s and Gender Studies, American Multicultural Studies, and Native American Studies at Sonoma State. 

    Erica Tom also stated how much of a pivotal role Tramaine Austin-Dillon served in supporting this development, “I am also grateful to Tramaine Austin-Dillon, Programs and Policy Specialist, Vice President Dr. Jerlena Griffin-Desta, and Office of the President, for their support in this exciting new opportunity to celebrate the success and achievements of Native American and Indigenous students at Sonoma State University”

    The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion tries to recognize the importance of graduation. The Cultural Graduation Celebrations provide students with the opportunity to publicly thank the people who helped them on their journey. 

    The department’s site page mentions additional thoughts on the cultural ceremonies, “They also honor the importance of overcoming barriers within higher education and affirm the different paths that lead to academic success.”

    More information on the NAI and other cultural graduation ceremonies can be found on the Sonoma State website under the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion page.

    COURTESY// Northwest Indian College express their pride for Indigenous culture through their graduation caps.

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