Combining Culture and Change

Tegan Wright ’22 works to ensure Native students have a community at Nazareth.

by Emily Kirch

Tegan Wright

“I’m seeing these issues, knowing about them, caring about them, and I feel obligated to talk about them,” says Tegan Wright ‘22. As a student of mixed Seneca and settler descent, Wright has used her passion and connections to raise awareness about the historical mistreatment of the Americas' Ögwe’öweh, or Original Peoples. She hopes her work will benefit generations.

“I think that we deserve to have a seat at the table if we're talking about changemaking,'' says Wright. The senior sociology major has found ways at Nazareth to teach people about Indigenous community issues and the experience of Indigenous students.

Wright currently serves as president of the Women and Gender Studies Student Association and was honored with a Nazareth 2021 Solidarity and Social Justice award. She also participated last fall in the annual Social Innovation Hack-A-Thon, which brings in community experts and has student teams develop solutions to societal challenges. As she was brainstorming which community experts to bring to campus, she realized many of her classmates were picking white people. Wright wanted to see and hear more Indigenous voices on campus. She credits the faculty and staff at Nazareth for giving her the support and guidance to lead a number of programs on campus. 

“This is a student bringing her passion and connections, and using the resources Nazareth provides, to inform the community about the concerns of Indigenous communities,” says Adam Lewandowski, associate director, Center for Civic Engagement.

Wright says her biggest accomplishment was holding a screening of the film Somebody's Daughter, a documentary about the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) crisis. After the screening, Wright held a roundtable discussion. “It was honestly really inspiring to see my peers come to that discussion after they'd seen the movie,” she says. Students had told other people, who then also wanted to learn more about the MMIW crisis. “It was so cool to see people actually caring about the things that are going on in their community," Wright observed.

To her, reaching a few people matters. “Even if I can talk to three people and get them aware of even just a couple of the issues that are going on in our communities, that's three people who might one day be a lawyer or a teacher who decides to include this as part of their curriculum and teach future generations.”

Wright proposed a new initiative to Nazareth’s Office for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Education aimed at making sure that Native students have a community at Nazareth College that celebrates their culture, history, and sovereignty. Wright is looking to establish a club, cultural days, and a formal land acknowledgement, and to fly the Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag on campus.

After graduation, Wright is thinking about going into teaching. Ideally, she would like to teach on a reservation. “That would be a really cool way to combine teaching, culture, and community,” she says. “And that's one of the things that I am most dedicated to.”

Emily Kirch is assistant director of social media in the Marketing & Communications Department at Nazareth College.