University of New Mexico Seal Triggers Protests Over “Colonization” Imagery

University_of_New_Mexico_221455I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico today to speak to the 2016 Conclave of state, tribal, and federal judges and lawyers.  There is an interesting forum being held nearby at the University of New Mexico where students and faculty are debating the change to the school’s seal which features a Spanish conquistador and a frontiersman. The Native American group The Red Nation have declared the seal to be offensive.  Critics are calling the seal a celebration of colonization.  The seal is approaching its 50th anniversary at the school.  It was adopted in 1969.

The University of New Mexico first developed an official university seal in 1898 that  resembled the Territorial Seal of the State of New Mexico. The seal has undergone seven changes and the latest design was the work of an Englishman,the former university president Edward Dundas McQueen Gray.  The current design was ratified and approved by the Board of Regents in 1969.

Student organization Kiva Club and Red Nation insist that the seal creates a hostile environmental for the Native American community.  Those opposing the seal have come up with their own satirical version showing the bones of dead Native Americans:


Students objected, declaring that it is impossible to “have the conversation of structural inequalities if you have dehumanizing imagery of us.” University President Bob Frank has welcomed the debate and supports today’s forum.

Though there are distinctions, the debate is similar to controversies that we have discussed at other universities over names and images that are now viewed problematic or offensive.  Universities reflect the history of a nation — good and bad.  Some of us have opposed changes like the effort to remove references to Woodrow Wilson at Princeton as destroying that history.  Historical symbols and references remind us of both the good and bad aspects of our evolution as a nation.  That history is part of us.

urlThat does not mean that this seal, which is only 50 years old, should not be changed.  It is troubling that Native Americans are not represented. Frankly, I was surprised by the omission and I do not believe that the opposition should be dismissed as hypersensitive.  This seal was only adopted in 1969 and does not appear to be deeply rooted in the university.  I wish that I could attend the forum to hear both sides of this debate.  The question however is whether all three groups should be represented since all three groups had profound impacts on this rich culture.  Of course, one approach is to go with a design without any historical figures depicted or the use of a symbol like the state flag.

What do you think?



61 thoughts on “University of New Mexico Seal Triggers Protests Over “Colonization” Imagery”

  1. KCF,

    “I don’t think I’ve run into the I know you are but what am I gambit since about 6th grade.”

    That’s funny, because that’s the gambit you played with Jill, KCF:

    “Jill has clearly been indoctrinated with Howard Zinn’s pseudo-history socialist propaganda, swallowed whole and without question, now regurgitated on command like catechismal training.”

  2. Steve Groen,
    I don’t think I’ve run into the I know you are but what am I gambit since about 6th grade.
    Thanks for the golden oldie!

  3. Paul
    I find your sense of humor both hilarious and dangerously paranoid, with a soupçon of echopraxia. For someone who claims to be so connected to education, research and thought, you never seem to have an original thought. Why do you suppose that is?

    1. phillyT – I just speak the truth. It appears you cannot handle the truth. As for original thoughts, you would have to ask my professors, my original thoughts drove them up the wall. Same for all my teachers. You should read my comments more carefully, you will see many original thoughts. You might try 2:42pm. for a start.

  4. Indiana, Indiana Indiana. Hoosier State. How did that come about?
    A Hoosier is definitely not some member of an Indian tribe. Not by that name at least.

    I happen to believe that the name of the state was about some guy who was inside Diana. etc.

  5. Conservatives and regressives are such delicate flowers. So sensitive. So fragile. So terrified of the day when they become the minority because of the way they treated everyone else for so long. The horror. The horror.

    1. phillyT – I find it strange that liberals are so afraid of conservatives that they have to import illegal liberals. They illegally allow felons the right to vote.

  6. Meet an Indian jungle boy named Koka. All he wants is a hat. Watch him work these catholic missionaries over. And Koka scores the hat! He looks like a presidential candidate. Koka is giving the missionaries orders.

  7. Professor Turley,

    I must ask this question here and now or you may not see it. If you are satisfied with the overall integrity of our judges and our judicial system in this country, on every level, please say so.

    I am not and I could list hundreds of recent failures to prove my case. This boob in California, who slapped the wrist of the Stanford rapist, is simply the most recent example of embarrassing judicial misconduct that has robbed us of our faith in the rightness of our courts. This headlong plunge into the abyss of ineptitude and debauchery needs a highly respected, fair, legal scholar to take action, or it may be too late, very soon.

    Please consider leading the way to replace this travesty with an accountable judiciary before our faith is utterly destroyed.

  8. if there were no explorers and conquerors we would still be living in caves and history would have continued to be etched on the walls of those caves.

  9. issacbasonkavich…………….Wait for it…wait for it, On this site sooner or later Clinton or Obama WILL be blamed for the seal of UNM.

  10. issacbasonkavich –

    “Typically it is the rabid Republican that wants to remain in the past and navigates via the rear view mirror.”

    “This has nothing to do with liberal or conservative but just a little rationality.”

    “Simple logic, not something conservatives know much about.”

    Three quotes that show what a joke your argument is.

    One, I didn’t allow anything. Two, yes I would remove all losers.

  11. Paul – Exactly.

    Jill has clearly been indoctrinated with Howard Zinn’s pseudo-history socialist propaganda, swallowed whole and without question, now regurgitated on command like catechismal training.

    1. KCFleming: speaking of biased thinkers regurgitating propaganda on command, how’d your catechismal training work for ya?! Sheesh.

  12. First try the carne adovada at Sadies. Then go to Acoma Pueblo and have them tell you about how the Spanish cut off half the right foot of every man there after one of Acoma’s attempts at freedom. There were 4 Acoma children taken by the Spanish in the 1600’s never to return but not forgotten.

    Acoma pueblo has been there 500 years as well 18 other villages and this is not reflected in the Seal of UNM. Kind of crazy.

    They still have a rifle given to the tribe as part of a treaty with US. The nameplate reads A Lincoln. They are us and should always be included

  13. Jim22

    You allow the conquistador, that lost to the French, the Mexicans, the Americans/frontiersman. If it is a win or lose deciding platform, you would be changing most everything. This has nothing to do with liberal or conservative but just a little rationality. If the seal is about the university then the native Americans have little if anything to do with its origin. If it represents the people of New Mexico then the Redskins should be represented. Simple logic, not something conservatives know much about.

  14. Jill: ” …a very brutal history

    All of history is a very brutal history.
    Indians, Arabs, Chinese, Spanish, Europeans, Africans.
    We were no more or less brutal than Indians.

    Indians were, however, still largely in the stone age at the time they were overthrown by a far more advanced and superior culture.

    Feeling bad about that does not change the fact that cultures have always come and gone, replaced via victorious battle or by the slow decay of a civilization (e.g., Rome).
    But violence was always there.

    Your view of history is wrong and erroneously biased against Caucasians.
    Do not be such an uninformed bigot, and stop spreading lies.

    1. KC Fleming – current scholarship shows the Sioux and Crow were better armed than Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. When Lewis and Clark crossed the Louisiana Purchase they noted that the Shoshone were the only tribe that did not have rifles. And they were being oppressed by the ones that did.

  15. On the one hand, I seriously have crisis fatigue.

    On the other, I wish they just said it was time to update the seal to something better, without the whole “this oppresses us” meme. The girls held in sex slavery or burned alive by ISIS are oppressed. Images of conquistadors or Native Americans taking scalps or killing families are windows to our history, which is filled with good and bad. Native Americans absolutely conquered, drove out, and sometimes enslaved other tribes and took their land, their horses, and their women. Whole tribes were wiped out. What do people think happened when resources periodically became scarce? “Oh, a weaker tribe holds the hunting grounds where all our herds have gone. Oh, well, we’ll just starve.” If you read any of the accounts of the female survivors captured by Native Americans, it was horrifying. I have, and human nature being what it is, Native Americans behaved just like any other human being who had absolute power and control over another helpless human being. Sure, there were instances where Americans were adopted into tribes or intermarried, but the reality is that slavery and other nasty things occurred also. We’re all the same species with the same faults and weaknesses that society/culture/religion tries to rein in. There was also beautiful aspects of their varied cultures.

    It is anachronistic to apply today’s moral standards to hundreds or thousands of years ago. Our history can evoke strong emotion, but it happened. If you are going to be oppressed by an image of our past, how are you going to survive? Moved, yes. But oppressed?

    Absolutely, update the seal. It sounds like it gets updated regularly and there are no deep roots for the school. Have a great debate on what to replace it with. But I wish the rhetoric would remain calm so people come together in a positive way to get a seal that reflects either the history or the current environment of the school. Make it an exciting time for artists to compete for the best seal. Have fun voting on it.

  16. issacbasonkavich – “If this was a debate regarding the State Seal then at a minimum an equal representation of native Americans; they were there first and regardless of whether or not they lost, they are part of the history of the state.”

    No, they are not part of the history of the state if they were conquered to create the state. To me, it would be like putting the losing team alongside the winning team on a championship flag. But in progressive liberal land, there are no losers.

  17. Change the seal. It doesn’t reflect history, a very brutal history.

    It would be nice to pick a seal which honors truth and knowledge. Those are important qualities for any college to value. The history of NM is complex. This seal does not reflect that history truthfully.

  18. There is little if anything to do with native Americans and the history of universities. The universities are a result of European-Spanish and ‘Frontiersman’/European once removed influence and are not a result of the original locals. If the seal of the University of New Mexico is supposed to represent its history then it would be inappropriate to include native Americans. If the seal is to represent the university currently as well as historically with a place for the future then make it a trio. The decision should originate from the meaning of the seal.

    Many institutions have historical emblems sourced from images of when they originated. Do you start inserting Chinese, East Indian, or other ethnicities into the seals, crests, and other designs of Harvard, Yale, etc.?

    If this was a debate regarding the State Seal then at a minimum an equal representation of native Americans; they were there first and regardless of whether or not they lost, they are part of the history of the state. The Spanish lost. If the state seal is changed then the eagle and snake have to move over for the frontiersman, conquistador, and native.

    So change and alter stuff but keep it somewhat logical. This stuff of America, as well as the rest of the world, is a work in progress. Some of it should remain to remind us of where we came from and some of should change to represent who we are. Typically it is the rabid Republican that wants to remain in the past and navigates via the rear view mirror.

    Chinese philanthropists are injecting billions into US, Canadian, and other universities. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese are studying at these universities. Soon, a university will be a product of all that came before. Perhaps some Chinese symbol would not be inappropriate eventually. Of the university should represent the university, unique to the university, peculiar to the university. Of the state should represent the state, which represents all. Watch out Eagle and Snake lobby.

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