SFU’s Honouring Feast for Indigenous grads goes virtual

June 23, 2020

For nearly two decades the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) at Simon Fraser University has hosted an Honouring Feast to recognize and celebrate the Indigenous culture of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada.

A feast is held to mark important social events, such as marriages, births, and funerals—and in this case, graduation for SFU’s Indigenous students.

But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a shift to the virtual world, with more than 250 Indigenous graduands, their family, friends, and special guests, attending an online Honouring Feast, held in conjunction with National Indigenous Peoples Day Sunday, June 21.

“The event has always been identified as a special ceremony to honour and celebrate Indigenous students on the completion of their education at SFU,” says Marcia Guno, ISC director.

“The intention and goal is to have a cultural element to not only recognise the unique and diverse Indigenous cultures of students that attend SFU, but also to recognise the Coast Salish nations.

The special packaged lunch served by Salishan Catering included alder-grilled salmon with blackberry sauce and salad.

For the past three years the feast has been catered by Salishan Catering, located on the Musqueam First Nations Reserve, and despite being virtual, this year was no exception.

Company owner Denise Sparrow and her team from the Musqueam First Nation delivered boxed lunches that included alder-grilled salmon with blackberry sauce, salad and crowd-favourite bannock (deep fried bread), in eco-friendly boxes to 122 students and their families in the Lower Mainland. Students residing outside the Lower Mainland received a gift basket from St. Jeans Cannery in Comox.

“Here on the reserve, and most other reserves, there is always a feast for every event,” adds Sparrow, whose team also delivered food to more than 1,000 people last week to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day. June is also celebrated as National Indigenous History Month across Canada.

Guno recalls attending an SFU honoring feast in 2001, when she completed her master’s degree.

“Post-COVID-19, we had to shift gears quickly. It’s remarkable how this event was organised in a condensed time frame of less than two months.”

The Honouring Ceremony celebrated 143 Indigenous graduands, including 91 undergraduate students, 53 graduate students—including 18 MBAs—and 30 First Nations Language Program graduates (16 diplomas in First Nations Language Proficiency and 14 certificates in First Nations Language Proficiency).

Crowd-favourite bannock (deep fried bread) was also on the feast menu.