I have nothing but love and respect for the Native American community. Therefore, it saddens me to have to respectfully disagree with a small, vocal group of activists who have been loudly claiming that UNM’s seal is somehow racist or a symbol of oppression.
Unfortunately, I fear that in picking a fight over a logo design, that this may harm more important struggles for social and economic justice. There are more pressing matters than the interpretation of a picture.
Now, specifically, with respect to the seal, it contains an image of a frontiersman on the left and a Spanish soldier on the right. It is not clear to me how Mr. Estes and other opponents objecting to this imagery have determined that either of the individuals depicted on the seal are guilty of racism, oppression, etc. Many frontiersmen and Spanish soldiers coexisted peacefully with Native American populations.
To assume that all frontiersmen and all Spanish soldiers killed or mistreated the Native American population is itself a racist assumption. Racism is a belief that all members of a particular genetic group possess certain negative traits which may actually only be found in a few individuals.
We should not generalize and assume that all or even most frontiersmen were racists or oppressors. We likewise should not assume that all or most Spanish soldiers and colonists were this way either. Far from it. There were plenty of honest and respectable individuals in these groups who treated Native Americans fairly. These individuals, and their descendants, ultimately helped to build the City of Albuquerque, and the University of New Mexico.
Large numbers of Native Americans have attended UNM throughout the decades since this seal existed and do not appear to have objected or found the seal offensive. Have these protesters even conducted polls in their own communities to find out about how people really feel?
Like President Frank, I believe that a dialogue should be had on this issue, but at present, there mainly appears to be inflammatory rhetoric, rather than fair and even-handed discussion. I hope there can be more of that.
UNM graduate and staff member