Discussion to be held on New Mexico’s appropriation of Zia symbol

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It’s the ongoing debate: Is it appropriate for retailers, casinos and even the State of New Mexico to use a sacred tribal symbol to represent all things ‘Land of Enchantment?’

It waves in the wind. It soars through the air at 30,000 feet. You can find it on t-shirts, keychains and beer koozies. It’s even on the Gildan New Mexico Bowl trophy.

Most would equate the red circle with four lines protruding from four sides to New Mexico.

“Like the United States flag, I think it brings a lot of pride to New Mexico,” Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said.

The origin on the Zia sun symbol is the Zia Pueblo, a tribe about 850 members strong located about 35 miles north of Albuquerque.

Although the sacred symbol is in the public domain, there’s long been a debate over the state’s appropriation of it.

“In 2014, the people of the Zia Pueblo came to me and said we’d like to find a way to protect the Zia symbol in terms of its use, its meaning and how exactly could we gain some financial benefit,” Padilla said.

State lawmakers, like Sen. Padilla, have taken the legislative route.

Legislators have repeatedly recognized the cultural significance of the Zia sun symbol and called for more respect toward its usage.

Padilla also sponsored legislation encouraging people and companies who want to use the symbol to ask the pueblo for permission first, and to donate to the pueblo in exchange for using it.

“We’ve set up a college fund for the youth of the Zia Pueblo,” he explained.

Next month, Padilla will be a panelist at an event titled ‘The Counter Narrative- Zia: The Iconography and Appropriation,’ being held at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

A passionate debate over the appropriation of the symbol is expected.

“We’re going to come together, we’re going to discuss it. We’re going to find the beauty in it, the poetry in it…But then also, what does it mean to the people of the Zia Pueblo and how can we continue to protect it,” he said.

That event is June 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is free to the public.

KRQE News 13 called the Zia Pueblo for comment on this story, but our calls were not returned. 

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center says a former Zia Pueblo governor is expected to attend the event and act as a panelist alongside Padilla.

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