ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – There’s growing momentum for a group trying to get The University of New Mexico to ditch its longtime official seal.
Last month, KRQE News 13 reported about a Native American led group, Red Nation, calling on the university to throw out the current seal, created in 1969. They say the depiction of the conquistador and the frontiersman is a celebration of colonial violence. They even created an altered seal to get their point across.
UNM’s Kiva Club is also in on the push.
Sunday, the two groups held a forum because abolishing the seal isn’t the only thing they want.
“People think that this is about abolishing the seal at the University of New Mexico, which it is, but it’s also about structural inequalities as it relates to native students and students of color,” said doctoral student Nick Estes.
The groups created a list of 11 demands they plan to present to the president’s office in two weeks.
It includes: the reconstruction of a native cultural center, a higher education council of tribal leaders and tuition waivers for students from federally recognized tribes. They say it starts with the seal.
“How can we even begin to have the conversation of structural inequalities if you have dehumanizing imagery of us,” Estes said. “We can’t even begin to talk about scholarships, about structural reform or any kind if the system for the university is one of conquest.”
The groups have gotten a lot of attention in the last few weeks, including the attention of Jozi de Leon, vice president of the UNM Division for Equity and Inclusion.
“It’s important to get the issue out in the open,” she said. “As a university I think that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to be able to learn and to grow and model that for our students.”
But de Leon said students have to be patient if they want to see change.
“Obviously everything can’t be taken care of at one time and some of those demands are easier to address than others,” de Leon said.
To get something like the seal changed the group has to go through the Board of Regents. Estes said they plan to write and deliver a letter this week asking for the issue to be heard at the next board meeting in early May.