fort lewis college campus in colorado

Unique Native American Graduation Ceremony Held at Fort Lewis College

On Saturday, Fort Lewis College hosted a unique graduation ceremony for 14 Native American students from Durango High School and Big Picture High School.

Over 200 guests attended the event organized by the Title VI Native American Parent Advisory Committee, with graduates representing six tribes: Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo, Apache, Zuni, and Isleta Pueblo.

During the ceremony, each graduate received a Pendleton blanket as a symbol of wealth, respect, gratitude, love, and friendship to honor their academic achievements. A parent, coach or mentor presented the blanket to them following traditional methods explained by Navajo Medicine Man Paul Long Sr.

The Native American graduation tradition began in 2009 under Bruce LeClaire’s leadership while serving as the Title VII coordinator for the Durango School District. The Title VI program was established in 2008 to support Native American families in Durango School District 9-R.

Over time, this annual cultural celebration has garnered increased support from the community. In addition to wearing their traditional stoles during their high school graduation ceremonies later this week, these students will receive diplomas.