Native American program’s blanket ceremony links history, culture

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 - 11:12 in Mathematics & Economics

Bestowing a blanket to mark a big achievement is an important cultural practice among many Indigenous communities. And graduating from Harvard qualifies. The Harvard University Native American Program began practicing the tradition last year at its affinity graduation ceremony for Native students. The event comes with its own communal pageantry, but HUNAP has found a way to also make it feel very personal. “When a tribal chairperson is blanketing someone ­— and I’m using it as a verb because it actually is both the giving of a blanket and also the act of draping it over the shoulders — there’s pageantry to it, there’s ceremony to it,” said Kelli Mosteller, executive director of HUNAP. Kabl Wilkerson chose the “New Day” blanket. Artist Sarah Agaton Howes (Anishinaabe/Ojibwa) said it was inspired by the designs and colors of her people’s historic beadwork. The program’s decision to use Eighth Generation blankets, which are designed by Native artists,...

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