Manitoba trade school kicks off first grad pow wow of the season

MITT welcomes Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members to celebrate.

A sea of colour lit up the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT) as dancers took centre stage.

Friday marked the school’s second annual graduation pow wow, created to honour and celebrate Indigenous graduates.

Rhonda Klippenstein, MITT’s manager of Indigenous initiatives and community development, serves as the event’s lead organizer. The pow wow, she said, is part of the school’s efforts towards reconciliation and Indigenous inclusion.

“The pow wow had always been, I think, a hope, and a dream and a wish for MITT, and then last year now that they had someone kind of dedicated to do that, we decided to go ahead and honour our graduates of MITT,” Klippenstein said.

Brandon Blumhagen is among the Indigenous students graduating from MITT this year. In June, he’ll officially receive his Industrial Mechanic/Millwright certificate. But for now, he’s excited to experience his first graduation pow wow.

“I’ll start my apprenticeship in millwrighting, and then will be going back to school, and hopefully in four to five years, get my full Red Seal and continue with a good career path,” Blumhagen said.

MITT president and CEO, Neil Cooke, began his term in July 2023, becoming the first First Nations person to hold the position. During the ceremony, he was honoured with a beaded medallion and an eagle feather.

Last year, the event saw over 700 attendees.

“Many of the people that are here are not necessarily all coming from our First Nations community. They’re coming from communities from across the world, and it’s a real opportunity for people to learn more about what we in Manitoba have as an Indigenous culture, and what we as a community can be when we diversify,” Cooke said.

Reflecting on his time at MITT, Blumhagen shared a few words of wisdom for Indigenous students interested in the trades.

“Look in to see what skills and interests you have and apply. There (is) a lot of help,” he says. “From high school, I just graduated, and then in something I feel passionate about, my grades have soared. So, find a passion, and stick to it.”

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