Exhibit outlines history and controversy around use of Zia symbol

The Zia symbol, a symbol that has become synonymous with state pride, can be seen throughout New Mexico on logos, coffee mugs, T-shirts and even tattoos. Many people are familiar with the symbol, but it’s history and origins are not as well known.

Ours: The Zia Sun, an exhibit that outlines the history and controversy of the Zia symbol, opened in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. The exhibit opened at the end of February and will run through Oct. 20, 2019.

The exhibit takes a closer look at the history and meaning of the symbol, who owns the symbol, whether the Zia Pueblo is being rightfully recognized for its usage and how its appropriation affects the Zia Pueblo.

“A lot of people (incorporate) it to their logo to say their affiliated with the state, or state pride in some way, but over time those usage of the symbol are not approved by Zia Pueblo or… affiliated with Zia, so you see the Zia symbol, you know what it’s called, but a lot of people miss that its connected to the tribe itself,” said Rachel Moore, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center curator of exhibitions.

Use of the Zia symbol can be easily found in the state of New Mexico though the Zia Pueblo is often not recognized, nor do they receive compensation for the symbol’s usage.

“I want to see an effort made to educate people as to the importance of the symbols, and our collective need to honor it,” said Kate Nelson, managing editor of New Mexico Magazine.

Nelson has written many articles about the Zia Pueblo and what the Zia symbol represents. She has been an advocate for the appropriate use of the symbol, as well as asking permission if an individual wishes to use it.

According to Nelson the Zia Pueblo has sought reparations for its usage in the past, although they have never filed a lawsuit against New Mexico for the symbol’s usage on the state flag, beginning in 1925. They have since continued to seek out ways to protect the Zia symbol and honor its cultural significance.

“You know there’s different ways to view it, and then there’s a pueblo way to view it, which is our main purpose here, to prompt the pueblo perspective,” Moore said.

According to the IPCC, the Zia Pueblos’ traditional name is “Tsi-ya.” The Zia is also known as a symbol of the sun and is an representation of friendship amongst countries. For more information about the Zia Pueblo, as well as other Pueblos in New Mexico, you can visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

“For me this whole thing kind of focuses on what is appropriation, what is appropriate, what is disrespectful, and that’s ultimately what all of this is coming out of and through learning about the origin of something and how important that is to certain people,” Moore said.

The exhibit hopes to make New Mexican residents think twice about how they are using the symbol, and remember the symbol’s origins.

“It’s not necessarily that there’s a right or wrong way to use the zia symbol, but that there is a right or wrong way to approach it… and it should be based in that knowledge and respect and interest for the Zia people,” Moore said.

If you would like to be apart of the IPCC Ours: The Zia Sun Exhibit, you can upload any photos of the Zia symbol here.

Mikayla Nowell is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @mikaylanowell.

Kaylee Trainum is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @kaylee_trainum