Honouring Our Future

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Honouring Our Future

Yukon First Nations Graduation Regalia

In partnership with Yukon Arts Centre and Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre

June 15th 2024 – September 21st 2024 | 11:00 am – 5:45 pm Canada Gallery

My name is Lisa Dewhurst, I am originally from the Nlaka’pamux First Nation in Southern British Columbia, which is on the west coast of Canada.

For the past 30 + years, I have called the Yukon Territory in northern Canada my home. It is while living and working in this unique and beautiful part of our Country that I began my career in Indigenous culture and tourism.  While I was managing one of the eight cultural centres in the Territory, the idea of a Native Graduation exhibit was born.

The Yukon First Nations Graduation has been occurring since 1975 and is hosted by the Council for Yukon First Nations, and all of the 14 Yukon First Nations.  It occurs in addition to the mainstream cap and gown and Prom offered by our high schools.  It recognizes the efforts of our Indigenous students who have received their high school diploma.  Many of these students have to leave their home communities and attend their final high school years in the capital city of Whitehorse.  This event has become a shining example of the growing progress and pride of Indigenous people in the Yukon.  It serves as a vibrant celebration of culture and language revitalization, reflecting the ongoing efforts and increasing momentum within our communities.

This exhibit, “Honouring Our Future: Yukon First Nations Graduation Regalia” brings together graduation regalia from every region of our Territory.

The pieces in this exhibit are exquisite!

The end products that you will see here today were several months in the making.  I have seen in my own community the excitement and creativity that planning for Native Grad produces, usually beginning the summer or fall prior.  Often sewing circles are started up, sharing of beads and patterns begins, and a beautiful blend of tradition and high fashion evolves.   It really creates its own energy and brings family and community together.  This is part of the story, that I really wanted to bring to light!

These pieces have been created by Moms, Aunties, Grandmas, other family members, Clan, community matriarchs and patriarchs.  Many of these pieces that brim with artistry and skill in a lot of cases were sewn on kitchen tables, and community halls.  The dedication and effort of all these sewers, hunters and artists are poured into each piece of regalia so their special loved one can receive their diploma wearing regalia that represents who they are, an Indigenous Person and student representing their Nation.

This is a very special story; these pieces deserve to be highlighted longer than one day of Graduation.  We are here to celebrate and hold up this Pride, Love and Support that these family members and communities have shown, provided and given so selflessly.

That is why, I am so pleased to dedicate this exhibit to all the Makers of these pieces of Art.

Before bringing this exhibit to London, this exhibit traveled to five of the eight Cultural Centres in the Yukon Territory over the past three years, building on the strong unity and partnerships we have within all our Indigenous communities.

I give thanks to the Elders and the traditional territories, and teachings of all Yukon First Nations for your history, inspiration, support, knowledge and vision that live through all of us.


It has been a great honour to have curated this exhibit!

Gunałchîsh –  Kuk Chem –  Mähsi’cho – Shä̀w níthän

Lisa Dewhurst


The Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and Yukon Arts Centre would like to thank all the graduates, their families, our curator Lisa Dewhurst, and our Elder Shirlee Frost. We also thank the Canada Council for the Arts, Government of Canada, and Yukon Government for their support of the exhibition.

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