The creation of the Native Resource Center at San Diego State University helps students and the community learn about the land the school sits on that was taken from Native Americans.
The school was built on Kumeyaay land, which was inhabited by the Kumeyaay peoples — the original inhabitants of San Diego County. Christopher Medellin, the director of the university’s Native Resource Center, explained its history..
“Mostly people from the church came and settled in areas that were highly populated … they wanted to convert people to Christianity. They set up the first mission here in San Diego and in an area very central to Kumeyaay folks,” said Medellin.
The missions were not a happy place as much of the trauma of indigenous people originated here.
“There were a lot of things that happened in the mission systems, including abuses, rape, child abuse, murder, alongside the indoctrination act forcing them [indigenous people] to speak Spanish, forcing them to learn the ways of the bible and also making them work, turning them into slave labor,” he said.
Daimaliz Rivera, a 22-year-old SDSU student, said she understands the importance of acknowledging the past trauma of Indigenous people, especially after taking a women’s studies course that made sure to discuss some of the histories.
“I think it’s important to recognize the struggles of Indigenous people as a form of atonement for the detrimental mistakes that led to the destruction of their culture and their lands,” said Rivera.
Medellin said learning the history behind these land grabs is crucial to creating awareness to put an end to the false assumptions that exist about them.
“A lot of people believe that Native people gave up or that they weren’t using this land or that they sold it,” he said.
A part of the healing process is the creation of places like the Native Resource Center. It works to build a community through student organizations like the Native American Student Alliance and the Indigenous Social Work Association. The center’s overall purpose is to provide students with any support they may need.
“To have a space, a home, a center, a hub, to focus on your background [and] your history as people … it’s really helpful. It allows folks to not feel like they’re so small,” Medellin said.
The center will have different programs highlighting issues that are present in the communities of Indigenous people, with the goal of providing support for these individuals and creating awareness.