By Tawla Jaad —
On May 28, 2016, the largest HlGaagilda Skidegate Haida graduating class ever, received gung.alang.uu gyaa’ad button blankets as they prepare to embark on an exciting new stage in their lives. The Taajuu xuud Sk’aajus Naay George Brown Recreation Centre decorated with balloons and flowers, was filled with proud parents, grandparents, cousins and friends as the seventeen graduates entered the hall. MC Taaiixou Robert Russ introduced and described each graduate and their plans for the future as they took their place at the head table.
Jiixa Gladys Vandal opened with a prayer followed by a welcome from Gitsxa David George and Sgaana Jaads K’yaa Ga Xiigangs Golie Hans.
One by one, each graduate was called to the stage. Family members lovingly wrapped the graduates in their brand new gung.alang.uu gyaa’ad as the crowd cheered and whistled. You could feel the pride and happiness in the room, parents beaming and classmates hugging and high fiving each other as they received their gung.alang.uu gyaa’ad. It was now time to bring their gung.alang.uu gyaa’ad to life by dancing them. The jaada’s and iihllngaay’s songs were sung and the students proudly displayed their gung.alang.uu gyaa’ad to the crowd as everyone clapped along to the drumbeat.
Following the dancing hereditary leaders Chee Xial Taaiixou, Wigaanad, Gaahlaay, Gitkinjuuwas and Nang Jingwas spoke, followed by School District No. 50 chairperson, gidadguudslilyas Kim Goetzinger; Gid Galang Kuuyas Naay’s principal, Deavlan Bradley; and Marci Piercy and Wah gwii hla gaay Duane Alsop from the SGiidagids Gan ga kaagangxaaw Skidegate Band Council. Encouragement and advice was shared, as well as many reminders to remember who your friends are, and where you come from.
Jaylene Shelford and Jessica Valentinsen spoke on behalf of the graduates, noting “our class has bonded over some great times, and some sad times,” and concluded their remarks with a moment of silence for their late classmate Jaylund Russ, who passed away in April. The evening closed with speeches from families and friends, a song by Jaylene Shelford, and a final dance in honor of Jaylund Russ, their classmate.