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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

EDITORIAL: Slow MU seal redesign failing Native students, communities

Students part of the Native American Student Organization have called on Marquette to change the seal for many years. Marquette Wire stock photo

It has been over a year since the Native American Student Association called on Marquette University to improve its support of Native students on campus and change the Marquette seal. The seal has not yet been changed.

Marquette must take more swift steps to get the university seal changed, as it severely misrepresents the interactions between Father Marquette and the Native peoples on the land and may isolate Native members of the Marquette community. 

The bottom half of the current seal has a cropped image from the 1869 painting by artist Wilhelm Alfred Lamphrect titled “Father Marquette and the Indians.” In the original painting, Father Marquette is conversing with a group of Native Americans who are guiding him on his journey. However, in the cropped image on the seal, Father Marquette appears to be the one guiding the Native American individual, as they are turned away from view.  

Additionally, part of the Marquette community has spoken out that this cropped image perpetuates colonialism, white supremacy and Native submissiveness. 

The Marquette seal has been contested among students and faculty since 2014, but a recent wide-reaching call to change the seal began July 2020 when a Marquette student started a petition to change the seal and October 2020 when Marquette’s Native American Student Association presented a list of demands to the university. In response to Native American Student Association’s demand to change the seal, Marquette announced it was forming a committee to redesign the seal March 2021

The next update on the seal was last August which said that the committee would “… continue its work this fall to ensure  that the seal represents Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and acknowledges the influence of Indigenous peoples on our history. continuing its work on the seal’s design.” 

Bryan Rindfleisch, an associate professor of history and a member of the research team for the seal redesign, said a proposed redesign of the seal was shared at the Dec. 10 Board of Trustees meeting but was voted down.

To Rindfleisch’s knowledge, the seal’s redevelopment is still going on. 

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of urgency on the university’s behalf to get the seal redesigned. 

The university seal not only harms people of Native communities but also harms people who are not part of Native communities. The university seal is everywhere — buildings, flags, paraphernalia, diplomas. By continuing to print and endorse this seal, Marquette is showcasing that it supports what the seal stands for. 

This is unacceptable. 

Changing the university seal is important because it is a tangible action the university can take to show it supports Native people on campus and in the surrounding communities. People of Native communities are telling the university that changing the seal is important to them, so making quicker efforts to change it is essential. 

As of the fall 2021 semester, there are only 13 undergraduate students, six graduate students and nine faculty and staff members who identify as Native American, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. Native Americans are one of the least represented groups on campus. 

Representation matters. Especially with such a small population of Native Americans at Marquette. Improving representation can begin with something as simple as changing the seal. 

The university recently shared it had adopted a land and water acknowledgment to acknowledge that Marquette is on traditional and ancestral land of Native peoples and nations, including the Menominee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Ho Chunk, Fox, Sauk and Mascouten people. 

This is a positive step toward creating a more inclusive environment for Native people as well as acknowledging the history of genocide and displacement Native Americans experienced during colonization. The same efforts should be made to change the seal.

By acknowledging that the cropped image of Father Marquette and the Native American grossly misrepresents their interactions, and dedicating more time and resources to quicken the process of redesigning the seal, Marquette can follow through on its verbal commitments and words with tangible action. 

Native students have been calling on Marquette to change the university seal for years. Marquette has been aware of the issues. There is no excuse for the delay. Marquette needs to quicken the process and change the seal. Enough is enough.  

Editorial topics by the Marquette Wire are decided at weekly meetings between members of the executive board. The editorial is crafted with leadership by the executive opinions editor. The executive board consists of the executive director of the Wire, managing editor of the Marquette Tribune, managing editor of the Marquette Journal, general manager of MUTV, general manager of MUR and ten additional top editors across the organization. 

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