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Zia Pueblo Artist & the New Mexico Flag

In 1920 the self-taught artist, Velina Shije Herrera, gave the state of New Mexico permission to use his design of the Zia sun symbol as the state’s logo. According to historical records, Herrera was excommunicated from the pueblo for betraying his tribe by giving a sacred design to non-Natives. For the people of Zia Pueblo the center of their symbol represents the sun, life itself. The top four lines are the cardinal points, on the right the lines represent the seasons, the bottom lines are the time of day and the left lines represent the stages of life.

Santa Fe Indian School

Velino Shije Herrera was born at Zia Pueblo in 1902 with the name Ma Pe Wi, which means Red Bird. At the age of 15 Herrera attended the Santa Fe Indian School under the tutelage of Dorothy Dunn. Four years later, in 1919, his work, along with others students, became an exhibit at the Museum of New Mexico. By 1932 he had a successful art studio in Santa Fe and became an art teacher at the Albuquerque Indian School. In 1920 the self-taught artist gave the state of New Mexico permission to use his design of the Zia sun symbol as the state’s logo, which appears on the state flag.

New Mexico’s Unpopular Flag

For three weeks in the spring of 1862 the city was under Confederate rule during the American Civil War. On March 26, 1862 New Mexicans and volunteers from Colorado joined forces with Union soldiers at the battle at Apache Canyon, 13 miles from Santa Fe just off of  Interstate 25. The Yankees lost five soldiers during that skirmish but captured 71 Confederates and killed between 32 and 70 of their men. Two days later the battle resumed west of the village of Glorieta now known as the Battle of Glorieta, which some refer to as the Gettysburg of the West. After that historic battle the Confederate flag came down and since then the U.S. and New Mexico state flag have graced public buildings throughout the state.

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