Student won’t give Marquette seal approval

While everyone is familiar with the extensive debate concerning the nickname for Marquette's athletic teams, the offensive nature of the university's official seal has been largely ignored.

One finds the seal in numerous places around campus, most notably adorning the rotunda ceiling in the AMU. It also typically graces official university documents.

The seal depicts Fr. Marquette authoritatively standing in a canoe that is being paddled by a Native American. Marquette points confidently in the direction in which he wants the native to transport him. The docile paddler is in the act of obediently serving his master, heeding Marquette's command and apparently harboring no resentment at his subjugation.

This depiction is insensitive to Native Americans because it suggests that their proper place is to submissively serve their European invaders. The implication is that the European knows better than the native, the latter being best served by obeying the former. The white male is the benevolent master, whereas the Indian is the misguided savage who fulfills his vocation only by becoming the white male's servant. The European is the developed adult, the native is the ignorant child who is not good for much beyond providing canoe propulsion.

Our ancestors committed genocide against the native inhabitants of this land. That fact cannot be changed. It is within our power, however, to treat Native Americans with respect and sensitivity. This would involve utilizing images of Native Americans in a responsible fashion. The university's seal fails to reach an acceptable level of respectfulness and is therefore irresponsible. Accordingly, the seal ought to be abolished and replaced by an alternative design that is more fitting of an institution that affirms the dignity and equality of all persons, something that Marquette certainly does.

Students who find the seal troubling should join together in calling on the university to provide a new model that better exemplifies its attested values.

This viewpoint was published in The Marquette Tribune on October 11, 2005.