Teressa Takes the Stage


Teressa in graduation robe and mukluks “I wore my mukluks — seal skin, caribou and beaver fur — boots, as well as beaded medallions.”

Our last meeting with Teressa was just a few days before the Thanksgiving break. We learned that Unaliin goes “by her English name of Teressa and is an enrolled member of the Kiana Traditional Council in rural Alaska.”

Teressa was in her final year of her undergraduate work and recently spent a few hours with AIEF before traveling to Kansas for the Thanksgiving break. Fast forward seven and a half months later when we checked in with her again to see how it felt to be a college graduate. Just two weeks after her graduation, she again was generous with her time and gave us this important update:

“My whole family travelled down from Alaska to attend my graduation. It was really fun. My mom, dad, older sister, and four of my younger siblings came to watch the commencement.

I wore my mukluks — seal skin, caribou and beaver fur — boots, as well as beaded medallions that were made for me by the Native American Student Alliance’ UNITY's 25 Under 25 program. I also wore a cedar medallion made for the earth ambassadors of Indian country, plus some beaded earrings. I could not wear more regalia because it was very hot out and most of my regalia is fur.

I could tell that one of my younger sisters was already thinking about college after the graduation. She had so many questions about what it was like to live in California and attend college. We spent a week together before they left to return to Alaska. We even went to Disneyland as a post-graduation celebration! My cousins on my dad's side also came for the commencement, which was one of the first times a large portion of my family was together for a while.

My school also had a Native American Student Alliance (NASA) celebration for the graduating seniors. There were four of us that graduated this year from UCSD. Many professors came and we talked about our accomplishments, where we saw NASA going, and our future plans. It was awesome celebrating with other Native students as most of us were first-generation college graduates.”

Teressa spoke about her next steps and law school. She shared:

“I actually decided to wait on applying to law school because I accepted a fellowship position through the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). I know that indigenous rights are the area that I want to focus on in the future so working for NCAI will give me more of an inside look at what I can do for Indian country.

Teressa in graduation robe and mukluks “I actually decided to wait on applying to law school because I accepted a fellowship position through the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).”

I am really excited and should be applying to law schools later this year as the fellowship is yearlong. In the meantime, I will be moving to Washington D.C. this coming month to start my fellowship in mid-July. My portion of the fellowship will be heavily focused on public policy and legislative affairs. In the very late future I would one day like to run for office in Alaska and I think the next few years will be crucial for my career.”

Teressa also deeply appreciated the AIEF scholarship and wanted to let donors know the difference they made in her life.

Teressa's thank you


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