Native Honoring Ceremony

Office of Multicultural Affairs Native Honoring Ceremony
The SDSM&T Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) Native Honoring Ceremony is a biannual event (December, May) established in December 2008 by OMA to celebrate and honor the School of Mines & Technology's Native graduates by providing a traditional graduation ceremony.

Graduates march into the Surbeck Ballroom in grand entry style led by an InterTribal Color Guard. They then sit on chairs and are draped in star quilts sewn in the school colors by the best-in-area Lakota quilters. The relatives, who have been invited forward, provide an eagle feather or plume. The students receive an eagle feather or plume which is blessed by a traditional elder member of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota community during the Yu'onihan or Lakota-style honoring ceremony.

Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Honor songs and Hunakpi songs are provided by various community drums. Guest speakers from among the SDSM&T faculty, staff and invited speakers from the Rapid City Native community and beyond are presented to offer stories, words of encouragement, praise, and strength to the graduates.

In past graduation feathering ceremonies, we've had former National Indian Education Association President Robert Cook (Oglala Lakota) as our Keynote Speaker. Otuhan Waste Win (She Gives Away, Generous Woman) Harriet Brings, the (Oglala Lakota) Rapid City School District Cultural Specialist, conducts an explanation of the tying of the feathers/plumes, which have been blessed beforehand for the last several graduations by revered Cheyenne River Sioux Lakota elder Gerald Yellowhawk, who among many other things, is a prestigious Northern Plains artist, traditional dancer, Lakota language translator, and pastor.

From a traditional family of singers and sun dancers, Harriet is the granddaughter of revered medicine man George Plenty Wolf and a descendant of Man Afraid of His Horse. In December 2008, former Porcupine Lakota Language instructor and Vietnam Veteran Dave West, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, also conducted the blessing of the feathers while Harriet explained the Yu'onihan ceremony.

Following the ceremony, the graduates, their families, faculty, staff, and invited guests enjoy a traditional meal of buffalo stew, fry bread, and wojapi. Families also share gifts, quilts, and cakes they have brought. An open microphone is provided during that time for any words of encouragement or honoring of faculty or friends on behalf of students or parents.

To date the Office of Multicultural Affairs has proudly honored the stellar achievements of over twenty five graduates (including two graduate students, one PhD candidate) in six ceremonies with a diverse selection of tribal affiliation (Sicangu Lakota, Oglala Lakota, Dine/Hopi, Apache, Cherokee, Ojibwe, Stockbridge-Munsee/Mohican, and Yankton/Ponca) and scientific and engineering fields: civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, metallurgical engineering, geological engineering, robotic autonomous intelligent systems, mining engineering, computer sciences, atmospheric sciences, and interdisciplinary sciences.

Our ceremony draws from community Lakota/Dakota/Nakota educators, guest speakers, traditional drums, and cultural resource persons as well as the strong support of SDSM&T faculty and staff. It is coordinated by OMA Program Assistant Abena Songbird (Abenaki), with the support and assistance of the OMA Director Jesse Herrera, and the input/support of many in the Rapid City Native American community and area tribal communities and businesses. SDSM&T's AISES chapter is also a prime supporter of our honoring ceremony.

We in the Office of Multicultural Affairs are proud to continue to present and help preserve these traditional cultural ways of life within our institution to honor our Native graduates and to promote and help ensure their future successes.