Native American House Congratulatory Ceremony


Picture of Alma Mater decorated in a Native blanket with different shades of blue and white, as well as a graduation stole with Native/geometric designs in darker colors. There is also a big "I" in orange, blue and white leaning against Alma Mater. There are clear blue skies and the Illini Union in the background, alongside trees and plants.

The Native American House is honored to recognize and celebrate Native American, Alaska Native, First Nations, and Indigenous students graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Throughout the event, you will hear congratulatory messages from Elders, University leaders, members of the Native higher education community at UIUC, and other special guests. We will also celebrate with traditional songs, dances, and a graduate blanket ceremony. To close, guests will enjoy a Native-themed buffet-style dinner.

Event Details

Date: Saturday, May 11, 2024

Time: 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Location: Illini Union: Rooms A, B, & C

Graduating students are invited (but not expected) to wear traditional dress to the Ceremony, in place or in addition to the cap and gown. Regalia is also welcome; keep in mind you will be blanketed during the Ceremony.

Registration Deadline: Thursday, April 18, 2024, 11:59 p.m. CT

Graduating students must register before the deadline to guarantee participation and recognition in the printed program:

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ponka-We Victors-Cozad (Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona/Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma)


Dr. Ponka-We Victors-Cozad was the first Native American woman to serve in the Kansas Legislature and served 12 years in the Kansas House of Representatives. She is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona and the Ponca tribe of Oklahoma. Dr. Victors-Cozad earned an undergraduate degree in Biology from Newman University, a graduate degree in Public Administration from Wichita State University, and a doctoral degree in Education from Creighton University in 2020. In 2021, she was appointed by Governor Kelly to the Kansas-Oklahoma Arkansas River Commission. She has been honored with various achievements and awards like the 20 under 40 award from the Council of State Governments and the Leadership for Public Purpose award from Creighton University. When she is not busy, she loves to spend time with her family and travel throughout Indian country, attending various tribal events and celebrations.

Congratulatory Ceremony Program

The program involves sharing knowledge, words of encouragement, and traditional forms of honoring as graduates prepare for a new journey ahead. Additionally, the impact of higher education on Native, First Nations, and Indigenous communities is emphasized.

  • Welcome
  • Grand Entry Procession
  • Invocation
  • Flag Song & Veteran Song
  • Recognition of Place
  • University Leadership Welcome
  • Keynote Speaker
  • Presentation of Graduates
  • Honor Song
  • Closing Remarks
  • Round Dance
  • Prayer for Meal
  • Native-themed Buffet Dinner

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I arrive?

The doors to the venue will open at 3:30 p.m. Graduating students, please arrive between 15 and 20 minutes before the event begins to locate seating for yourself and accompanying guests. Seating for guests is on a first come, first served basis.

Is the event space ADA-compliant?

To request disability-related accommodations for this event, please contact the Director of the Native American House, Charlotte Davidson, at

Can I take pictures?

Yes. However, in our effort to create a culturally safe space, do not take pictures during prayers or when the Master of Ceremonies has said not to. If you wish to take pictures of dancers in regalia, it is always good to ask first.

Additional questions?

Please email the Native American House at