We have a new contender in the nationwide contest for Most Ridiculous Student Protest — University of New Mexico.

Native American students at UNM have decided the university seal is offensive because it bears a conquistador and a frontiersman. They argue, “it glorifies the violent European treatment of natives.”

Or, it could be part of you know, history. But these days, all history is racist.

According to the Albuquerque Journal:

The protesters want the seal – whose roots can be traced to the university’s fourth president, Edward Dundas McQueen Gray, and was most recently updated in 1969 – relegated to the dustbin of history.

They have gone so far as to design a protest version with a conquistador and frontiersman standing atop a mountain of skulls and ribcages with the current seal in the background. Red capital letters superimposed on the image read, “What Indians?”

The Kiva Club, a Native American student group, and The Red Nation, a Native American advocacy group, say the current seal is offensive.

UNM President Bob Frank said many people are attached to the seal, given its long history, but that he’s open to hearing the students’ rationale for changing it.

“It’s a seal I have always known,” said Frank, who earned several degrees from UNM in the 1970s. “I certainly understand that people may have different points of view. If they want to talk about it, I am open to the conversation.”

The protest seal is the creation of Nick Estes, a doctoral student and a member of the Oceti Sakowin tribe in South Dakota. He and others say the current seal is emblematic of deeper-seated racism at UNM.

“I saw it, and I was like, ‘Is this really true?’ ” Estes said at a planning meeting of students and others looking to abolish the seal. “This is my interpretation of what that actually means. I actually couldn’t believe it. I didn’t actually think that this was a real thing that the University of New Mexico would be doing.”

Local news KRQE reported:

A group called Red Nation is on the case, passing out modified flyers in an attempt to shock people into seeing the error of the UNM seal’s ways.


They might be protesting, but to date, Red Nation has yet to initiate a formal complaint to get the Change the Seal ball rolling.

“This is the stamp that legitimizes it all,” sophomore Jennifer Marley said. “For people who don’t understand why the seal is offensive, it’s the depiction of a conquistador and a frontiersman and the celebration of deep colonial violence.”

Marley is a member of The Red Nation. It’s a Native American led activist coalition that was established in 2014 and is based in Albuquerque and Gallup.

Many of its members attend UNM, including its founder, Nick Estes.

Estes is the person who tweaked the seal so the conquistador is now atop a mountain of skeletal remains, with the caption “What Indians?” The group made flyers and passed them out to students during the Indigenous Book Festival.

The group said the flyer is meant to be a bold statement, and people on campus agree.

“Sometimes you have to shock people in order to get them to realize how offensive something can be perceived,” Michael Wray said.

Estes said that’s the group’s mission and they won’t give up. The group has already had conversations with UNM’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.

However, according to UNM policy, the seal can’t be changed unless the group goes through the board of regents. The university said it hasn’t received any official requests to ditch the seal.

Just imagine the outcry if the seal was etched in chalk…

[Featured image from Marla Brose/Journal]

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