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New West Indigenous grads honoured at Rite of Passage Ceremony

Qayqayt Chief Rhonda Larrabee and the school district's Indigenous education team brought the tradition back for the first time since 2019.

Another school year is nearly over, and one group of New Westminster students had a chance to mark the occasion in a culturally significant way.

Indigenous high school graduates in New Westminster were recognized at a special Qayqayt Honouring and Rite of Passage Ceremony this year.

The ceremony, held May 31 in the Grand Commons at NWSS, brought together 21 graduates: 20 from NWSS and one from the alternate POWER program.

It was the first time the ceremony had been held since June 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic put the tradition on hold.

Traditionally, the ceremony honours Indigenous students in transition across the district: from elementary to middle school, from middle school to secondary school and from Grade 12 to the next phase of their lives.

This year, Qayqayt Chief Rhonda Larrabee reached out to the district’s Indigenous education team in the spring with an interest in reviving the tradition — starting on a smaller scale with the Grade 12s, since COVID-19 restrictions were just beginning to ease at the time.

The team worked to coordinate a salmon feast dinner and a ceremony to honour the hard work and achievements of this year’s graduating Indigenous students.

The New Westminster school district provided these photos of the occasion.

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