Student activists at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are demanding that the school abolish its current school seal because it allegedly celebrates genocide and whitewashes out the legacy of the state’s American Indians.
UNM’s official school seal, in use since 1969, shows an American frontiersman on the left and a Spanish conquistador on the left, above the school’s motto of “Lux Hominum Vita” (Life, the light of man). It’s generally used only on diplomas and other official matters, and isn’t a major part of the school’s marketing.
That’s straightforward enough, but some people are deeply upset about it.
According to local KRQE news, Indian activist group The Red Nation (whose membership includes many UNM students) has started passing out fliers with a doctored seal that shows the frontiersman and conquistador standing atop a massive pile of human bones. Across the front in bold letters is the phrase “What Indians?”
The purpose, sophomore Jennifer Marley told KRQE, is to reveal the deeply pernicious aspects of the seal lurking just below the surface.
“This is the stamp that legitimizes it all,” 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.”
The new campaign may draw some inspiration from a recently successful campaign at Harvard University, where activist efforts (and a “hate crime” with an unclear perpetrator) led to the abolition of the law school’s seal because it was based on the coat of arms of a slaveholding family.
Changing the seal would require approval from UNM’s board of regents. So far, despite the protest action, the school says it has received no official requests to eliminate or alter the seal.
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