Native American students within the Kiva Club in the University of New Mexico are calling the institution\’s seal, which depicts a Spanish conquistador and a frontiersman, offensive and racist. The seal is stamped on all diplomas and it is featured at most school events.
The Kiva Club, plus a local leadership group called Red Nation, claim the seal endorses colonialism. The University of New Mexico is really a public institution with more than 27,000 students. It first adopted the seal in 1969; the emblem was based on the designs of a former university president, Edward Dundas McQueen Gray, an Englishman. Today, about 10% of New Mexico\’s population identifies as American Indian or Alaska Native, based on census data.
The doctoral student leading the protest, Nick Estes, has unveiled a redesigned seal that depicts the conquistador and frontiersman standing atop bones having a message that reads: \”What Indians?\” in stark red letters. The redesign will be interpreted as part of the protest from the official seal.
\”I first viewed it, and I was like, \’Is this really true,\” Nick Estes said of the university\’s emblem. \”This is my interpretation of what that actually means. I actually couldn\’t believe it. I didn\’t actually think it was a real thing the University of Mexico could be doing. How can we even start having the conversation of structural inequalities if you have dehumanizing imagery of us?\”
Reportedly, conversation concerning the seal has spread into other student groups. For instance, as Chris Quintana of the Albuquerque Journal writes,Cheyenne Trujillo, who\’s the president of Chicano/a Studies Student Organization, says her group is currently debating the seal and may support its removal.
According to Julia Glum of the International Business Times, a lot more than 100 people have signed an online petition demanding the seal replaced, arguing that other schools across the country have spent years removing Confederate imagery in response to students concerns. The protesters also want the University of recent Mexico to build a Native American cultural center and have more Native American representation on its board of regents.
The students’ concerns have not been dismissed. The Washington Times reports that the university\’s diversity council are working with the concerned students to resolve the issue. Additionally, ABC News reports the university?president, Bob Frank, while defending the seal like a familiar logo of the University, is also open to discussing the scholars grievances.
\”This is really a university,\” said Jozi de Leon, a representative for equity and inclusion on campus. \”This is really a place where we should be having this type of dialogue. You should be open to hearing the concerns of the scholars.\”
This incident over controversial imagery of conquistadors and colonialism in the University of New Mexico isn\’t an isolated one. This past year, people protested the Fiestas de Santa Fe, a historical re-enactment that has Don Diego de Vargas reclaiming the town of Santa Fe following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Protesters claimed the fiesta ignores the bloodied history between Spanish colonists and Native Americans.