Convocation is always a special time at the Four Directions Indigenous Centre.
The place is a second home for many Indigenous students, and every year Four Directions staff attend new graduates’ convocations. Families are invited back to the centre for a small celebration. Students also add their painted handprint to a publicly displayed mural that features Indigenous graduates from previous years.
Due to the COVID-19 postponement of in-person convocation ceremonies, Four Directions is hoping a gift of Indigenous art – a colourful beaded Q – will help make up for not having a traditional graduation.
About 50 beaded Qs, made by Indigenous artists, are part of a graduation gift basket.
“We weren’t able to do any of our usual convocation celebrations that students really look forward to, so we wanted to make something a little personal and traditional,” says Four Directions Cultural Counsellor Lisa Doxtator.
The idea of giving a beaded Q was inspired by fourth-year Indigenous nursing students who run a mental--health sharing circle. They made Ms. Doxtator a beaded Q brooch as a thank-you gift at the end of their project in 2020.
Beading has been part of Indigenous culture and history for thousands of years, and Four Directions runs a beading workshop led by a professor once a week.
Ms. Doxtator describes the act of beading by students as “Indigenous therapy.”
“There are so many skills involved in beading – each bead is sewn by needle and thread, one at a time. So, you have to have a lot of patience and the ability to focus. There is pride involved in the student’s work that they have made something that their ancestors have been doing forever,” says Ms. Doxtator, who is proud to see several former students now making money by selling beaded jewelry and earrings.