Students honor Native lives lost in residential schools, ‘There are still more children that need to be found’

The+Native+Resource+Center+at+SDSU+opened+virtually+last+school+year.+This+year+they+are+operating+in+person%2C+spreading+awareness+and+providing+support.

Eugènie Budnik

The Native Resource Center at SDSU opened virtually last school year. This year they are operating in person, spreading awareness and providing support.

On Thursday, Sept. 30,  students on campus might have seen an unusual amount of their peers wearing the color orange. This color was no coincidence, as Sept. 30 was Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day was established in 2013 to honor the legacy of Native students who were forced to attend Saint Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, British Columbia between the period of 1891 to 1981.

Since 2013, Orange Shirt Day has transformed into a global day of remembrance and grievance for all Native children abused at residential schools in both Canada and the United States.

The Native Resource Center at San Diego State held an event in honor of this year’s day of remembrance.

“Orange Shirt Day is a day of remembrance for the children taken from their homes, from their families and put into boarding schools,” Director of the Native Resource Center Chris Medellin said. “This year it’s been increasingly more important to recognize this day because of the unmarked graves found at boarding schools of thousands of children.”

In July 2021, news of over 160 unmarked graves found at a residential school on the west coast of Canada went viral.

“There are still more children that need to be found,” Medellin said. 

The Native Resource Center banded together with other campus cultural centers such as the Latinx Resource Center and the Black Resource Center to promote awareness of the tragedies faced by Native children through social media.

“We are showcasing different documentaries about survivors from throughout the nation and in Canada,” Native Resource Center Program Coordinator Amanda Flores said.

The documentaries shown by the Native Resource Center at the event highlighted the struggles and abuses endured by residential school survivors. 

The resource center also offered visitors a magnolia leaf to paint and attach to a paper tree in the center.

Eugènie Budnik

“The origins of Orange Shirt Day are very troubling and difficult, as a lot of the information is very heavy,”  faculty scholar Gabriela Kovats Sanchèz said. “The intention behind this [the tree] was to process a lot of it through the decoration of the magnolia leaves. Whatever emotions, intentions, or prayers that one wants to put out the decoration of the magnolia leaf allows that.”

Throughout the day, the Native Resource Center posted images of supporters donning orange in solidarity on their official social media channels. The Office of Vice President posted a photo of members wearing orange and holding up the official orange shirt day signage. 

“This day acts as a form of community, recognition, and remembrance,” Sanchèz said.

On the Native Resource Center’s official Instagram account (@SDSUnativerc), students are encouraged to take action during their week of action for Indigenous Peoples Day from Oct. 11-15. The events include conversations on the impact of boarding school atrocities and the effects of opioids in the Native community, as well as various film screenings throughout the week.

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