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student being wrapped in a blanket at indian education honoring ceremony

The Ventura County Indian Education Consortium celebrated its 49th Annual Indian Education Honoring Ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Cal Lutheran University.

The Ventura County Indian Education Consortium (VCIEC), a federally funded Title VI Indian Education program, with additional funding provided by the consortium partner districts, includes 324 enrolled Native students from throughout Ventura County who attend school at one of 17 public Ventura County school districts and charter schools.  This year, at our end-of-the-year Honoring Ceremony, we celebrated the Indian Education Graduating Class of 2024, which included 34 graduates.  We also celebrated our 21 American Indian Students of the Year, who are being recognized for their dedication to their Native heritage and their success in academics, attendance, and attitude.

The Honoring Ceremony, held on the beautiful campus of California Lutheran University, invited students, their families, and school district representatives to participate in a very special rite of passage that serves to connect the students to their Native heritage and the Native community of Ventura County. They were celebrated with cultural presentations by Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, Tribal drumming by the Bearspring Singers, songs by Sacred Indigenous Preservation’s Hummingbird Singers, and a special Jingle Dance style of powwow dance.  Those present were also invited to a barbeque dinner put on by Oxnard Union High School District’s Pacifica High School Culinary Arts Department, and the highlight of the evening was the graduation blanketing ceremony, where graduates were draped by their loving family in a Native American blanket, representing their passage to this next important stage of life and welcomed back into the community as High School graduates.

Sylvia Soholt, a parent committee member for the last 11 years, attends the Honoring Ceremony each year.  Here is what she had to say about this meaningful event, “It brings our community together in a good way to celebrate the students for their achievements in a culturally significant way. Marginalized people historically have not had as much family and community support when it comes to advancing and higher education, and for that reason, when we come together as a community to honor the accomplishments of our Native students, we are part of helping them envision a future for themselves that takes into consideration a history of where they have come from.”

Evangelista Cobos, a Ventura High School senior who was honored, had this to say about the ceremony, “What made the event so special for me and my family was the fact that we haven’t been able to celebrate our culture in other ways ever since the elders in our family have passed away. It was special because one of the speakers was someone from our tribe and our specific clan, and I know my mom was very excited about that. It's overall just a really nice and special event for my family and I, and we're so happy we attended and got to celebrate with the community.”

Though Ventura County schools are all located on traditionally Chumash lands, the VCIEC student population includes students from 69 different tribes.  The graduating class of 2024 includes students with the following tribal affiliations: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Chumash, Fort Independence Paiute, Gila River Pima, Ho Chunk, Iroquois, Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Karuk, Mohegan, Navajo, Northern Cheyenne, Osage, Pascua Yaqui, Ponca, Shawnee, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Spokane, Standing Rock Sioux, and Tongva Gabrielino.  Congratulations to all of our graduates!


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