San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Native Resource Center commemorates Native American students on Orange Shirt Day

In remembrance of those who faced hardship in residential boarding schools, students and staff came together for a day of looking back with a newfound perspective
Jazlyn Dieguez
Second-year Nicole Yeager stamps footprints onto a banner to commemorate children impacted by boarding schools on Friday, Sept. 29.

On Friday, Sept. 29, students dressed in orange clothing joined the Native Resource Center in front of Hepner Hall to commemorate Orange Shirt Day. 

The event — established in 2013 — served as a way for students to learn and remember the history that still impacts the Native American community to this day. 

Thousands of  Native American students were forced to attend Saint Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, British Columbia, between 1891 and 1981. 

Attendees gather in front of Hepner Hall to learn more about Orange Shirt Day on Friday, Sept. 29. (Jazlyn Dieguez)

Over the last decade, Orange Shirt Day has evolved into a day of remembrance and honor of Indigenous children who faced inhumane treatment — some resulting in death — at residential boarding schools in the United States and Canada.

“I think one of the most important things that we have to remember is that education was really forced on Native people,” said Chris Medellin, director of the Native Resource Center. “Doing an event like this is really just to make sure the stories are told because a lot of different people’s histories are just not covered.” 

Medellin also commented on the idea that while progress has been made for Native Americans, there’s still much more work to be done. 

“I think education allowing more narratives and stories to be told is a first step in a lot of ways,” Medellin said. “There’s a lot of other actions that we can take afterward because it’s going to be an ongoing issue as long as people are silenced.” 

Although Orange Shirt Day serves as a day for remembrance, the Native Resource Center paid further homage to this message with cultural music and dances. With their songs and dances, Jacob Waipuck, assistant professor of American Indian Studies, alongside Harmony Sweetgrass, 2023 Miss Kumeyayay, captivated a large SDSU crowd in harmony. 

Incense filled the air as Waipuk softly banged a drum, singing songs of Native pride while Sweetgrass and other students swayed to the soft beat. 

Attendees added onto a long banner of years past, lithographing 2 feet, symbolizing the countless number of students who faced hardships. 

“Our intention of coming out here in front of Hepner Hall is to have this visual art representation to show the gravity of the impacts of the

Jacob Waipuck, assistant professor of American Indian Studies, and Harmony Sweetgrass, 2023 Miss Kumeyayay, begin stamping preparation for Orange Shirt Day on Friday, Sept. 29. (Jazlyn Dieguez)

boarding schools,” Haley Okamoto, assistant director, said. “It’s estimated that a little over 60 thousand students or children were impacted by residential schools, so with this tarp and the one we’re working on right now, we have a little over 5 thousand footsteps. That’s 5 thousand out of 60 thousand children who have been impacted.” 

Those who weren’t members of the resource center came out and showed support for Orange Shirt Day.  

“It’s really important to recognize all the students that were affected because in order to bring awareness and good culture, it comes with student advocacy,” Dara Paz, a third-year student, said. “A lot of those younger students that were in there are now older adults and now have to suffer consequences of mental health and are learning to be proud of their culture again.” 

Attendees took part in the activities and came to learn the importance of why this history of Native American students is remembered. 

The SDSU Native Resource Center is located at West Commons 115, and is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

For more information visit the Native Resource Center here. 

About the Contributors
Roman Aguilar
Roman Aguilar, '24-25 Sports Editor, '23 -24 Sports Editor
Roman Aguilar (he/him/his) is a second-year journalism major with an emphasis in public relations from Stockton, California. Since he was little, he loved watching sports and being able to tell a good story out of an exciting game matchup. He joined the Daily Aztec in 2022 as a contributor and staff writer for the sports section, covering a multitude of sports including football, men's basketball, and water polo, before moving on to sports editor. Aguilar is also a blog writer for KCR College Radio, attending concerts and having the opportunity to cover shows and interview artists. When he isn't writing articles related to music or sports, you can see Roman going to local concert shows on a near-weekly basis and watching his favorite horror movies.
Jazlyn Dieguez
Jazlyn Dieguez, '23-24 Social Media Editor
Jazlyn Dieguez (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year journalism major minoring in creative editing and publishing from Salinas, California. She possesses a strong drive to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, showcasing her talents across various mediums including social media, broadcasting and writing. Prior to assuming the role of social media editor for The Daily Aztec, Dieguez served as a staff writer for The Daily Aztec's Arts and Culture section and held the position of vice president of writing & copy for The Look Magazine, SDSU's first student-run arts, fashion and culture publication. Currently, Dieguez has taken on the responsibilities of vice president for SDSU's Society of Professional Journalists chapter and social media editor for SDSU's National Association of Hispanic Journalists chapter. Apart from her academic pursuits, Dieguez enjoys binge-watching TV shows, discovering new music, traveling to new locations and staying up-to-date with the latest trends in fashion.