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Use of sacred symbol causes New Mexico controversy

Zia images
The commercialization of the Zia sun symbol


Indigenous peoples

CNN's Jennifer Auther looks into the trademark battle
Windows Media 28K 80K

By Correspondent Jennifer Auther

ZIA PUEBLO, New Mexico (CNN) -- The Zia sun symbol has become synonymous with New Mexico. Synonymous and ubiquitous.

It has been on the state flag since 1925. You'll find it on license plates. If you open a telephone book in Santa Fe, you'll find at least 100 Zia listings. The symbol even appears on portable toilets.

To the 850 people of the Zia Pueblo tribe, the sun sign is perhaps the most sacred of their culture.

"That's what we pray through -- the sun. Anything to do with religion ... that's what we use," Zia Pueblo tribe elder Ysidro Pino said.

Until recently, the tribe could only mount costly legal battles in an effort to protect the symbol.

So far, the tribe has won just one partial concession from the state.

"In a joint memorial, the state acknowledges that the sun symbol belongs to the Pueblo of Zia, that they appropriated the symbol without proper permission and authority," said Peter Pino, Zia Pueblo administrator.

The second part of the tribe's two-pronged attack involved the federal government.

Since July, U.S. Patent and Trade Office representatives have been meeting with Native Americans across the country. A report to Congress is due on September 30.

People of the Zia Pueblo hope it will generate movement toward new legislation aimed at protecting sacred icons.

"The ultimate goal would be to protect this particular sun symbol and not only this symbol, but also symbols and insignias throughout the country," Gov. Amadeo Shije of Zia Pueblo said.

What happens for the Zia Pueblo tribe could affect some 500 Native American tribes now recognized nationwide.

"The specific question we were asked to consider," said Todd Dickenson of the U.S. Patent Office, "was whether we should develop a roster or a register of the official seals of the Indian tribes, similar to the official seals of a country or a state, which enjoy protection now."

On the other side are business owners who currently use the logos.

"It's certainly not our intention to be disrespectful to anyone, and if we were mandated to change our name ... I think we could," Zia Diner co-owner Elizabeth Draiscol said.

For people of the Zia Pueblo, it is a matter of respect.

"We have been so many times stepped on, pushed around, slapped around ... if we're going to let businesses use it, we want royalties," Ysidro Pino said.

Tribal administrators said there has been no movement on that front so far.

@marillo Globe-News: News: Zia Pueblo seeks compensation for state using its sacred symbol 2/3/99
The Origin of the Zia Symbol
State of New Mexico Homepage
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