Overuse of Zia symbol sparks debate, ideas for state law


Whether it’s on a shirt, a bumper sticker, even a tattoo, the Zia symbol is easy to find all over New Mexico. 

The icon’s use is also fueling debate over whether the state should make new rules to limit its use.  

In front of hundreds at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Wednesday night, a panel took on the topic of the iconography and appropriation of the Zia sun symbol. 

Many have noticed today how the symbol is used all over the place including in company logos, merchandise and other items. 

“You find yourself not even thinking about it too much, you just go, ‘Wow, cool, a beer, you know with the Zia symbol,” said Robert Martinez. 

A deputy state historian, Martinez also joined former Zia Pueblo Governor Peter Pino and New Mexico State Senator Michael Padilla for the discussion. 

“People… not really understanding that the meaning of the symbol,” said Pino. “We’re always trying to educate the mainstream.” 

The topic has picked up steam in recent years with many pueblo member’s growing concern that the sacred symbol continues to be misused. 

“It’s an important conversation and we do need to be sensitive to everybody’s feelings, while at the same time, educating ourselves as to the meaning,” said Martinez. 

Democratic State Senator Michael Padilla from Bernalillo County has worked on the issue for roughly five years. Wednesday night, Padilla suggested that state legislation may be the next step in helping guide future use of the Zia symbol. 

“To add more emphasis and protection to the Zia symbol. How do you use it, what are the specs and the specifications,” Padilla suggested to the crowd. 

Padilla received cheers from the crowd upon suggestion of legislation. He hopes that legislative “next step” can come soon.  

Currently, the Zia Pueblo asks that anyone trying to use the Zia symbol for commercial purposes apply for permission and donate to a pueblo scholarship fund. 

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