Protesters: Native American-made seal not native enough

Students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are protesting their school’s official seal because of its implicit discrimination against Native Americans even though the seal itself was created by a Native American artist.

UNM’s student activists are accusing the school of racism because the seal depicts a frontiersman standing alongside a conquistador but fails to portray their historical counterpart—indigenous people.

“There is a history of unity between all the nations, but you don’t see that [in the seal]. Where’s the unity of Spanish, white and indigenous, where’s the unity of all the cultures that come to this campus? It’s not represented,” said student Cody Artis, a member of his school’s “Kiva Club,” which is responsible for organizing the campaign against UNM’s seal.

The Kiva Club is working in conjunction with another student group called “The Red Nation,” whose co-founder called the seal a crime against humanity.

“The UNM [official seal] celebrates genocide and conquest—both are violations of basic human rights and belong in a museum of a bygone era,” said Nick Estes. “It’s 2016 and UNM is still celebrating crimes against humanity—colonialism and genocide—and Natives are still underrepresented at all levels at the University.”

However, UNM awarded Native American artist Theda Douglas Rushing a Meritorious Service Medal in 1994 for her outstanding contributions to the school, among which was the creation of the school’s now discriminatory seal.

“She was commissioned by the University of New Mexico to execute the first 6’ x 7’ UNM seal, in felt fabric,” Rushing’s obituary states. “The banner was used as a backdrop at official UNM functions until 1980, when the seal was redesigned. Theda executed the redesigned seal in felt, and the original banner was retired and displayed at Hodgin Hall on the UNM campus.”

A university official confirmed with the Daily Lobo that Rushing did in fact design the school’s first official seal and then later redesigned the seal due to issues with reproduction.

“She later designed, crafted and contributed to a new university seal,” said Pamina Deutsch, UNM’s director of policy and administrative planning.

However, students continue to insist on its discriminatory nature, and have even started passing out flyers with an edited image of the seal that depicts the conquistador standing atop a mountain of skeletal remains, according to KRQE News.

“What Indians?” is written in bold letters across the face of the image.

Along with their calls for a new university seal, students are also demanding the reconstruction of the school’s Native American cultural center, the “formation of a council of elders at the Board of Regents comprised of leaders from surrounding pueblos,” and tuition waivers for federally recognized tribes, the Lobo reports.

“We hope to see it spawn other actions; this isn’t just a Native issue,” said student Jennifer Marley. “We hope to see other groups on campus call for changes to their cultural status as well. We want this to be an on-going thing, not just one action.”

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