Champagne and Aishihik First Nations takes graduation celebration on the road

Graduate Sean Barnaby poses for a photo in his gradfather’s front yard while waiting for the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations graduation parade in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Gail Barnaby, mother to graduate Sean Barnaby, left, fixes Sean’s hair before the arrival of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations graduation parade in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Porter Creek Secondary School graduate Sean Barnaby, 17, right, waves as the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations parade passes him and his family in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Dän nätthe äda Kaaxnox (Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Steve Smith) celebrates Sean Barnaby during a CAFN graduation parade celebration in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Sean Barnaby, 17, left, watches as graduation gifts are dropped off for him in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Porter Creek Secondary School graduate Sean Barnaby, 17, from left, his grandpa Paul Birckel, his mother Gail, and relative Barb Joe, watch as the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations grad parade passes the house in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Porter Creek Secondary School graduate Sean Barnaby, 17, from right, his grandpa Paul Birckel, his mother Gail, and relative Barb Joe, wave as the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations grad parade passes the house in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Porter Creek Secondary School graduate Sean Barnaby, 17, reads a letter from Champagne and Aishihik First Nations found in his gift bags after the graduation parade in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Sean Barnaby changes out of his traditional beaded vest and puts on a grad jacket gifted to him during the parade in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family and friends watch as Porter Creek Secondary School graduate Sean Barnaby, 17, checks out his swag bags left on the driveway during the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations grad parade in Whitehorse on June 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Traditionally around this time of year, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) is getting ready to throw a celebration dinner for all its citizens graduating from different levels of school, but this year, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers had to take a different route.

That route, to be specific, was a parade route.

On June 3 and 4, CAFN council members, the chief, teachers, family and friends joined a convoy of vehicles that zigzagged its way across the Whitehorse area, as well as Haines Junction, to each graduate’s home.

“I think that was a really neat thing,” said Dän nätthe äda Kaaxnox (CAFN Chief Steve Smith), who was part of the convoy. “I just felt it was a lot more intimate.”

Planning for the parade started in April when it was realized that gatherings for graduations likely weren’t going to be allowed in time, said Kaaxnox.

In lieu of its formal celebration dinner, the council planned a parade full of honking, singing, dancing and even gifts for the grads.

Grads stood on their front lawns as convoys of more than a dozen cars drove past to congratulate them on their achievements. The grads, said Kaaxnox, included those from Kindergarten, Grade 7, Grade 12 and post-secondary and totalled more than 30.

“We pretty much hit every grad that was graduating from a program this year,” said Kaaxnox, adding that not every graduate can always make the dinner. “And so I felt it was more effective and it was also a lot more intimate to be able to, you know, hear a celebration song sung in their honour.”

Sean Barnaby, 17, was one of the high school graduates that was celebrated with a parade on the evening of June 3.

As the Porter Creek Secondary School graduate stood on his grandparent’s front lawn with his mom, grandparents, and other family before the parade, he said he was disappointed that his class wouldn’t be getting a true graduation.

“My whole life I’ve been expecting this big thing for grad, like a big party,” said Barnaby. “And then with COVID, kind of after spring break, I knew that everything was going to be different.”

But then a dozen vehicles loudly rolled up and stopped in front of the house; people were honking, yelling congratulations, singing celebrations songs and even dropping off gifts.

After five minutes of non-stop excitement and big smiles, the street cleared and Barnaby was able to open his gifts and laugh with his family about the experience.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Barnaby after the parade. “It was more than I was expecting. It was really great.”

Kaaxnox had some words of wisdom for graduates who are experiencing disappointment in missing traditional graduation ceremonies:

“This is just a small window of their life that we have to live this situation, you know, (and) while celebrations are good, finishing something that you start out with, this is good. They have to remember that there’s a lot of journey to get to where they are and (they) need to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.”

Contact Crystal Schick at crystal.schick@yukon-news.com

First NationsGraduation 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read