Every June, the Trent community gathers with friends and family to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of our graduating students as they become Trent alumni. This annual celebration is embedded with Indigenous culture, adding to the traditions of Trent University’s convocation ceremonies.
As we get closer to convocation, let’s take a look at how Trent recognizes our relationship with Indigenous peoples, the land and learning, at these ceremonies:
The Eagle Staff, consisting of eagle feathers on a long wooden staff, represents the strength and honour of Indigenous Peoples. This year, most ceremonies will be led by two Eagle Staffs – one is carried by a local representative of Curve Lake First Nation, and the second, representing the water, will be carried by a member of the Trent University Elders & Traditional Knowledge Keepers Council. Traditionally, an Eagle Staff is carried by a man.
Water (nibi) is the most sustaining gift of our Mother the Earth and is the giver of life. In Anishnaabeg tradition, women have a special responsibility to care for and ensure that water can continue to provide for the health of our planet and ourselves. The nibi is collected through ceremony from the Otonabee River and is carried in a copper pot. Following the completion of convocation, the water will be returned to the River in ceremony.
Walking alongside the water will be a member of the Trent community carrying the Eagle Feather. The eagle feather represents the highest honour that can be bestowed. Trent’s Eagle Feather was gifted to the University by Curve Lake First Nation in celebration of Trent’s 50th anniversary in 2014. The Eagle Feather attends all meetings of the Board of Governors throughout the year.
The Eagle Staffs, water, and Eagle Feather lead the procession, starting each convocation ceremony.
The Condolence Cane
The Condolence Cane is a reflection of the Peacemaker’s mission to put an end to war and create unity. The Condolence Cane is a symbolic representation of the governance structure of the Haudenosaunee people depicting the relationships of the Grand Council Confederacy of Chiefs in the clans of the Six Nations. Trent University’s Condolence Cane was a gift from the Trent Aboriginal Education Council in 1995 and was carved by the late Chief Jake Thomas, leader of the Cayuga Nation, and a Trent professor. The Condolence Cane attends all meetings of the Senate, and is carried at the front of the Academic procession.
Each ceremony closes with an honour song. In Anishnaabeg teachings, the sound of the drum represents the original sound of creation. The honour song offers words of praise for the graduates, words of thanks to those who supported them. It reminds us of the seven grandfather/grandmother teachings: to live with humility, bravery, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect and love. This year, the honour song will be performed by the women’s singing group Unity and the men’s drum group Michi-Saagiig Manoomin.
Gowning & Regalia
Graduating students wear robes and hoods that represent the academic degree they are receiving. Faculty wear the robe and hood of the university from which they earned their highest academic degree. At Trent’s ceremonies, Indigenous students and faculty often wear traditional regalia as part of, or in place of, their academic robes and hood, celebrating their heritage at Trent’s most prestigious event.
For more information about the 2023 convocation, including full schedule and ceremony details, and visitor information, please visit: trentu.ca/convocation.