The effort to abolish the UNM seal — which some on campus have accused of being offensive — began in a campus apartment, and although the fight has come a long way, it’s not over.

UNM KIVA Club has proposed a seal abolition to many levels of administration and, even after a frustrating November Board of Regents vote to continue using the seal, the group has not given up.

On Wednesday, the group revisited its effort to abolish the seal, and reaffirmed is dedication to activism for future generations.



“The seal is just the catalyst to make this change happen,” said KIVA Club President Demetrius Johnson. “It’s not just about changing the seal. That won’t change the way marginalized people on campus are treated.”

In late 2016, the decades-long effort to redesign the UNM seal was formally presented to regents. Instead of outright abolishing the seal, they voted to form a committee tasked with determining the price and leading the execution of the seal replacement.

However, that meant that it would not be possible for upcoming May graduates to have the option of getting a degree without the seal, which the group was advocating for.

Since then, the issue has not appeared on an agenda, nor been discussed in a meeting. KIVA Club leadership said the continued push for seal change is critical, nonetheless.

“It’s important that indigenous people are heard. We’re saying, ‘We’re here too,’” Johnson said. “What this seal means now is conquest, is genocide, is the taking over of the land from the original inhabitants.”

The seal portrays a conquestator, frontiersman and a roadrunner representing a Zia pueblo.

For Johnson, the seal romanticizes the “the genocide of an entire people,” and is just the tip of the iceberg for institutionalized mistreatment and cultural insensitivity on campus.

To re-address the issues, the KIVA Club gave several demands to administration early last year.

Efforts to rebuild the Native Cultural Center, hire more Native American faculty and abolish “racist imagery and cultural appropriation(s),” on campus were top on the list.

Further demands included establishing a UNM Council of Tribal Leaders, official University recognition of Indigenous People’s Day of Resistance and Resilience — something Albuquerque as a city has done — and the formation of a tuition waiver for members of federally-recognized tribes.

Paintings and images on campus misrepresenting indigenous people, insensitive naming of campus buildings and a lack of institutional support for certain club events were also cited in the presentation.

Johnson specifically mentioned the dorm building Redondo Village. For him, the building conjures up horrific stories of The Long Walk to Bosque Redondo — the 1864 forced march of the Navajo people. During that 18-mile march, nearly 200 Navajos were killed.

Other buildings such as Coronado Hall and Oñate Hall also represent a level of cultural insensitivity, the presenters said.

UNM alumna Cheyenne Antonio, who also spoke at the Wednesday meeting, noted how KIVA Club’s effort to change the seal is connected to events happening across the country.

“This ties in a lot with what students of color are facing right not with the rise of the Trump administration,” she said, citing controversial rhetoric aimed at minority communities.

While the future of the seal remains in limbo, KIVA Club hopes to see administrative recognition soon.

“Our most important step is trying to get on the Board of Regents agenda,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he hopes “to convince (regents) this is an important issue,” and that they will eventually listen and implement their demands.

Ultimately, Johnson hopes Kiva Club’s efforts support future generations.

“It’s all about setting the groundwork for future students,” he said. “When future students come in they’ll say, ‘Those students did it. We can too.’”

Brendon Gray is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.