This report originally appeared in Liberation News.
by Rebecca Hampton
Over 100 people including students, faculty, administration, and community members joined The Red Nation and the Kiva Club for a speak-out in front of the president’s office on University of New Mexico’s campus to abolish the school’s racist seal featuring the infamous colonizers, a conquistador and a frontiersman. UNM is located on traditional Indigenous Pueblo land, where occupation and genocide against Native people is ongoing.
Red Nation organizer David Maile said, “Respect existence or expect resistance!” The seal mocks the existence of Native people, but today activists and community members celebrated 500 years of resistance and carried the struggle forward for liberation and self-determination for Native people.
UNM directly profits from its occupation of indigenous land in multiple ways, Sharidynn Denetchiley, student and organizer with the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, explained. “UNM gets a lot out of Tribal Scholarships from in-state and out of state, and [UNM] is gaining more and more financially, so these demands need to be met.”
Black, Chicano, LGBTQ, Indigenous, Palestinian, Asian, and other working-class people came together and united against a common enemy, colonialism and capitalism.
Former UNM instructor and community organizer Vernon Butler stressed, “You cannot have racism without oppression, and you cannot have oppression without capitalism!”
It was clear that UNM President Bob Frank doesn’t stand with his students against racism and couldn’t even listen to his own students when he fled his office for a “meeting” at the beginning of the speak-out. After the speak-out, protesters stormed the president’s office to deliver a list of demands and petition signatures in support of abolishing the racist seal.
When confronted, President Frank told students that he did not find the seal to be racist and fumbled when they continued to ask if the seal promotes genocide. Red Nation organizer and PhD candidate Melanie Yazzie declared: “Bob Frank you have blood on your hands! We are going to keep holding this university accountable until it concedes to our demands!”
When asked why the seal should be abolished, activists asserted:
“It [the seal] should be abolished and removed,” said Robin Minthorn, UNM faculty. “It is racist and hurtful to Indigenous students and community,”
Student Renata Yazzie explained, “It is a slap in the face and inherently racist,”
Student Kory Klee elaborated: “The seal’s colonial imagery is a continuation of the ignorance in our education system. Its colonial ideas continue the romanticizing of a genocide of indigenous people.”
“It [the seal] is representative of a harsh period of colonial imperialist conquest of the original people,” said Shiloh S. Tso, community member.
Students and community want action from the UNM administration:
“Abolish the seal! Abolish Columbus Day!” said Cheyenne Antonio, former president of Kiva Club and Red Nation organizer, who has been organizing against racism since she was a freshman at UNM. Antonio. “[The seal] is racist and offensive to me and my ancestors because it promotes violence and genocide towards Native people.”
Demetrius Johnson, Kiva Club president and electrical engineering student, has a message for administration. “To abolish the racist seal and not meet the demands is pointless.”
“Next, the administration at UNM should follow our list of demands to stop celebrating genocide!” said Red Nation organizer Hope Alvarado. “Down with colonialism, patriarchy, and imperialism!”
Jennifer Marley, Kiva Club secretary and Red Nation organizer, affirmed, “[If the seal were abolished] this would push UNM towards taking an anti-colonial stance, as well as instill basic human rights norms into UNM policy.”
Organizers also called for continued organization and solidarity.
“We abolished Columbus Day, and it wasn’t because we asked nicely and appealed to City Council. We abolished it because we demanded it. We stood up, we marched in the streets, and forced them to listen to the community standing up against injustice and we’re gonna abolish the racist seal! The war on Indigenous people never ended. Socialism calls for all oppressed people to unite in our struggle against a common enemy, capitalism. Colonialism needs to be equated with capitalism. We unite and fight because not only do Native lives depend on it, but all lives depend on it,” said Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer and Red Nation co-founder, Paige Murphy.
In the spirit of internationalism, organizers from the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice and Jewish Voices for peace called for solidarity with Palestinians struggling against colonial occupation and for support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
“If they [UNM administration] really wanted to get rid of racism on campus, this seal wouldn’t have even been created. We all need to join together, Black, white, Native , anybody on campus if you are against racism, which you should be!” exclaimed Jacklyn Asamoah, president of the Black Student Union.
“Like Larry Casuse said, ‘What’s your commitment? What are you going to do? You can’t just talk about it,” said Demetrius Johnson encouraging activists, students, and the community members to get involved in the movement. Only through multi-national unity and by building a broad movement against capitalism, colonialism and imperialism will we cultivate real change.
Celebrate Resistance, Not Conquest!
Abolish The Racist Seal!
No School Pride in Genocide!
Long Live Larry Casuse!