College convocation centers Indigenous culture, protocol

By College Relations | June 21, 2023

Richard Jackson Junior, from Lower Nicola Indian Band, carries the Eagle Staff at the Kelowna campus convocation on June 10, 2023
Richard Jackson Jr., from Lower Nicola Indian Band, leads the commencement and convocation ceremony procession at the Kelowna campus on June 10, 2023.

On National Indigenous Peoples Day, Okanagan College reflects on its commitments to reconciliation and the rich history, diverse cultures and significant contributions of Indigenous peoples.

“While we still have work to do, this has been a meaningful year for Okanagan College’s journey toward reconciliation,” says Rhea Dupuis, Associate Director of Indigenization at the College. “For the first time, communities came together at each of our four college campuses to celebrate graduates, where ceremonies centered around Indigenous protocol.”

June marks the first time that Okanagan College has held commencement and convocation ceremonies at every campus, including in Penticton, Kelowna, and Vernon – the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation – and in Salmon Arm, the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwépemc Nation. Organizing five convocation ceremonies in four different communities created a unique opportunity to honour and celebrate Indigenous cultures, traditions and protocols.

“It was so special to see the Eagle Staff drummed into the ceremonies with an Honour Song, hear welcoming remarks from Elders,and hear traditional songs that welcomed and honoured graduates,” adds Dupuis. “The ceremonial Eagle Staff plays a prominent role in our commencement and convocation ceremonies, representing all nations gathering in unity to celebrate, and we’re grateful to our partners and community members who helped ensure the ceremonies were done in a good way.”

While Indigenous ways of knowing were woven into each ceremony, for the second year, Indigenous graduates who crossed the stage received special convocation stoles designed by Syilx Okanagan and Secwepemc knowledge keeper and artist, Les Louis. Embroidered on the stoles are Syilx and Secwepemc pictographs of a canoe family and three eagles.

According to the most recent statistics available at Okanagan College, in 2021-22, 1,668 Indigenous students enrolled in educational programming at the College, representing 10.8 per cent of the domestic student population. Students have access to culturally relevant resources and programming at Indigenous Services Centres located at each of the College’s four campuses, including in Vernon, Salmon Arm, Penticton and Kelowna.

The College encourages students, staff, faculty and the broader community to honour National Indigenous Peoples Day by considering attending a local event, supporting a local Indigenous business and taking time for individual reflection.

More information about Indigenous initiatives at Okanagan College can be found at



Sign up for weekly stories


Communications student standing outside the Centre for Learning building at the Kelowna campus
Meet Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores

April 4, 2023

Q: What's your name? A: Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores Q: What's your hometown? A: Quito – Ecuador – South America Q: How did you end up at Okanagan College? A: Well, I studied for a bachelor's degree in Law in Ecuador. Then, I worked for a while and got my Master's degree in Government and Culture of Organizations at the University of Pamplona.  When I returned to my country, professional opportunities arose for me. I mean, a Master's degree improved my career. Spain helped me develop ...

Animation student
Artistic students design future careers in animation

June 7, 2022

Grads of Okanagan College’s Animation Diploma program are finding their skills have never been in higher demand. First- and second-year students showed samples of their artwork and demo reels to industry partners at OC’s annual Animation Industry Night on May 17. “Lots of the work was very professional,” says James Wood, Chair of Okanagan College’s Animation Department. “Our program is short, but intense. The instructors make sure the students have a realistic understanding of what they need do to succeed in a competitive and demanding wo...

JAMK campus
OC Business students embrace international study again

May 30, 2022

Business students from Okanagan College are once again able to travel to Jyväskylä, Finland to experience an international summer school at the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.  Finland’s education system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world.  OC Business Professor Blair Baldwin, who has taught Services Design at JAMK for several summers, says working in Finland has helped him innovate and create new teaching methodologies. “JAMK employs experiential learning across its curriculum,” he says. “They stress critical thinkin...

Enactus 2022
Enactus Okanagan College tops the field, sets sights on national championships

May 27, 2022

Okanagan College students will once again be competing for the Canadian title after qualifying for the Enactus National Exposition with a first-place finish in their league during the semi-final round. Enactus teams at post-secondary institutions across Canada competed virtually earlier this month, and Okanagan College scooped up top position in the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge, and runner-up in the Scotiabank Climate Action Challenge for the Unusually Good Food Co. project. It also included national runner-up in Shaw and RBC accelerators...