WSU student advocates for Indigenous people

Indigenous WSU student found her passion for improving Native issues through WSU’s Native community



Jaissa Grunlose of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation is a member of the Natives in Media student organization on-campus, which works to address harmful stereotypes in the media.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

The first Indigenous Peoples’ Day on WSU’s campus happened three years ago because several student mentors at the Native American Student Center petitioned to host an informative yet entertaining event for all students. Jaissa Grunlose of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation was one of those students.

A senior now, she’s ready to use her marketing and American Indian Studies degrees to continue educating others on Indigenous issues in the professional world. Grunlose said it was not always easy for her to speak up about the marginalization of her community.

“In high school, I was not very involved with my Native side, really, so having the Native community that’s here on campus was really great because it showed me that Native issues are something that I’m really passionate about changing and improving for future generations,” Grunlose said.

Kaitlin Srader, a fellow student mentor who served with Grunlose on the Native American Women’s Association officer cabinet, said Grunlose can come across as quiet, but she cares deeply about cultural appropriation and how Native communities are portrayed.

“She’s a great advocate in terms of speaking out for Indigenous representation, not just at WSU but I think within the state of Washington,” Srader said.

Grunlose said she served as president of the Native American Women’s Association and on the Natives in Media student organization on-campus, which works to address harmful stereotypes in the media.

“We’re just now starting to gain a lot of a lot more media attention on asking for names to be changed, taking down statues, saying no to having our imagery on shirts or whatever,” Grunlose said. “I think that it’s kind of an issue because people are used to just like ignoring us and thinking Natives are something of the past, when we’re not.”

Srader said this ignorance toward Native visibility extends to her experiences as well.

“I’ve heard this rhetoric a lot within my classes, with students talking about Native people as a thing in the past. I’m like, I’m sitting right next to you. We’re very much well and alive and strong and passionate,” Srader said.

Joelle Berg, Native Programs retention specialist, said the Native American Student Center, and other groups within that such as NAWA or Natives in Media, help students who feel misunderstood develop a sense of community away from home.

Student mentors like Grunlose can help other Indigenous students with issues they face on-campus, Berg said, because they have often experienced them first-hand.

“She just has a really good heart,” Berg said. “She has always cared for others. She is trying to do what’s best for them, for herself, and for her family. I think that’s always at the core of what she’s doing.”

Grunlose said Native activists often only get portrayed for their connection to their tribe. She said there are many layers to their personalities beyond activism.

While Grunlose said her hobbies are closely tied to her culture, she also maintains an interest in fashion and local artwork. Berg said Grunlose is a talented artist and is especially skilled in beading.

“Her style, her outfits are always so on-point,” Srader said. “And she’s just really fun to be around, too.”

Berg said Grunlose is also witty and well-spoken, a valuable asset for a student mentor.

“Even though she might believe her voice is shaky, and maybe she doesn’t have all the right words, she does,” Berg said.