‘Bonds of kinship’: UM graduates celebrate connections at commencement

Bret Anne Serbin

Many of the 2,000 graduates who walked across the stage at the University of Montana’s Adams Center Saturday started their UM journeys before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the theme of their commencement wasn’t one of distance or separation. On the contrary, the class of 2023 degree recipients celebrated the connections that brought them together as they looked back on their years as Grizzlies.

“Kinship is about enduring hardships together,” said commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient Mandy Smoker Broaddus. “Trusting in collective knowledge, sharing responsibilities and valuing everyone in the community.”

Smoker Broaddus, a 2002 graduate of UM’s master of fine arts program, is an outspoken advocate for public education. A member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation, Smoker Broaddus also served as Montana’s poet laureate from 2019 to 2021. 

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“The bonds of kinship,” Smoker Broaddus said, led her ancestors through the Dust Bowl, the Battle of Little Big Horn and the Native American boarding school era, to ultimately bring Smoker Broaddus to the illustrious podium Saturday morning. 

In the same way, she said, kinship forged

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