Students at the University of New Mexico have teamed up with a Native American advocacy group to protest the official seal of the university, which features a conquistador and a frontiersman.
Native American student group the Kiva Club and Native American coalition the Red Nation created a petition seeking the removal of the seal, claiming it promotes racism and is offensive to indigenous people. The seal was designed in 1969.
"The brutal Spanish conquest of Pueblo people is celebrated with the representation of the conquistador while the frontiersman represents the U.S. colonial invasion of Native lands in the southwest," the petition read. "UNM has one of the highest populations of Native students in the Western Hemisphere currently, and its seal continues to make a mockery of its Native students and the surrounding Native community."
The hashtag #AbolishTheRacistSeal has also sprung up amid the controversy.
"People think that this is about abolishing the seal at the University of New Mexico, which it is, but it's also about structural inequalities as it relates to Native students and students of color," Nick Estes, a graduate student at the university, said, according to KRQE.
University president Robert Frank, a UNM alumnus, said he is not opposed to discussing the school's seal.
"It's a seal I have always known," Frank told the Albuquerque Journal. "I certainly understand that people may have different points of view. If they want to talk about it, I am open to the conversation."
Despite the petition, a change to the university seal won't happen overnight. The university's board of regents are the only individuals with the authority to change the seal. "The seal cannot be altered or modified except by authorization of the board of regents," the Regents' Policy Manual read.