Native students of all nations dressed in their finest tribal finery On May 14th in Santa Fe, for the Institute of American Indian of Arts 2016 graduation ceremony.There were 26 creative writing MFA graduates,29 BFA graduates, and seven AFA graduates. Designer Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo, Class of ’89) gave the commencement address on a brisk day. Artist David Bradley, an IAIA alumnus (Minnesota Chippewa, Class of ’79), was awarded an honorary doctorate.
“An IAIA commencement is not your normal commencement” said MFA director Jon Davis,
“From the soaring sounds of the Native American Community Academy Singers to fashion designer Patricia Michaels’ often hilarious recounting of her time at IAIA, to the unscheduled irreverence of the 1491s Migizi Pensoneau (also an MFA graduate this year), this was one of the best graduations of the 25 I have attended, and they’ve all been good.”
Chee Brossy, a Dine’ MFA graduate in fiction said, “We’re making something new here. Native readers, that’s our mentality. Seeing all of my fellow MFA graduates brings that idea to life.”
Meek Watchman, a Dine’ MFA Poetry graduate said, “For the past two and half years I’ve been nestled and nurtured between poets and passionate company. “
“The MFA program at IAIA gave me peace, where a safe space was created. It was a safe place to fail, it was safe to be human, and it was safe to explore possibility on the page. Through nurturing and safety, I learned to sacrifice. Sacrifice taught me discipline and renewal and gave me an arsenal for creative fluidity. Thank you IAIA, for showing me what it means to live life like a poet. Ahe’hee’.”
Regalia was in full force as Native students and family celebrated a win for Indian Country.
Jon Davis, IAIA MFA director of creative writing, also said this year’s ceremony was special because it featured an amazing valedictory address by graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts senior, William Thoms (Confederated Tribes of Chehalis Reservation).
“He talked about losing his way as a young man, going from ‘making a statement to making a dollar,’ until a high school truant challenged him to follow his dream and he did. That dream led him to IAIA and back to ‘making art.’ Thoms’ address was speechmaking of the highest order.”
“There’s nothing like an IAIA graduation for hilarity and sadness and joy and, well, more hilarity,” said Davis.
Follow ICTMN’s Jason Asenap on Twitter at @asenap