Graduation powwow for Native American RPS graduates returns after two year halt

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 8:27 AM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – On Saturday, May 21, a graduation celebration powwow will be held for seven Native American students who are graduating from Rochester Public Schools (RPS).

The last time the celebration was held was in 2019.

“It’s a momentous occasion for their lives and also as a Native people to have these students complete their education. And sometimes for our students, it’s under a great deal of hardship. So we’re very grateful to their families willing to share with us and spend this day with us. And letting us honor them,” said Valerie Guimaraes.

Guimaraes is a co-founder of the Greater Rochester Area Dakota Supporters (GRADS). She is a member of the American Indian Parent Education Committee in Rochester.

“It’s important for us to support our student Native Americans in the State of Minnesota have a 50.3 percent graduation rate,” she said.

The Minnesota Department of Education reports that the graduation rate for American Indian/Alaskan Native students was 50.8 percent in 2019. In 2020 the graduation rate was 55.7 percent.

“It was not only GRADS but the parent committee’s desire to celebrate their accomplishments. And the best way that you can do that is by having a powwow, where people can come together sing and dance and celebrate those accomplishments,” Guimaraes said.

She said the celebration will also include vendors and food.

“We will be providing a program so everyone understands how the day will flow. And also contained in that program is pow wow etiquette. So just things that people need to understand and know when they come to a powwow. Most times picture-taking video recording is appropriate but at some times during the pow wow, the MC will let you know that it is now okay,” Guimaraes said.

The event is open to the public and starts at 1 p.m. at Mayo High School Football Field.

“Come and enjoy and wish these graduates well,” Guimaraes said. “We’re pretty excited about this. It’s been missing and we feel it. It’s a time of celebration and to give thanks that we’re able to come together at this time.”

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