SDSU to explore new mascot to replace the Aztec Warrior

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SAN DIEGO — The SDSU Senate passed a resolution Tuesday that calls for recommendations for a new mascot to replace the Aztec Warrior.

A new group chaired by the university’s tribal liaison Dr. Jacob Alvarado Waipuk, a member of the San Pasqual Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, will propose two Kumeyaay-named animals for the school’s consideration, according to SDSU’s campus newspaper, which also bears the “Aztec” name.

While SDSU’s administration says it does not officially have a mascot, a student dressed as an Aztec warrior appeared at sporting events to lead chants as recently as the 2019-20 season. The school, which often describes the Aztec nickname as an unofficial “moniker” or “spirit leader,” also uses the term to refer to the school’s student body on its official website and in campus events.

“We’ve kind of seen a shift to that, whether it’s with the Washington Redskins changing their name, it’s kind of a social change that we are seeing,” freshman TJ Miller told FOX 5. “I believe there are some students that are upset or confused about it. I believe that SDSU does respect a lot of other cultures and groups.”

The resolution recommends that the group led by Waipuk make its recommendations to SDSU President Adela de la Torre, the University Senate and to SDSU Associated Students by Dec. 7. A final decision on the new mascot is expected by April 5, 2022.

It’s not the first time there’s been a push to remove the Aztec name. In 2017, a similar resolution was introduced by the university’s Native American Student Alliance. Marissa Mendoza, who authored the past resolution, said, “We owe it to indigenous people to get rid of the mascot and the moniker.”

“There’s no price on being culturally sensitive and respecting native people on this campus, San Diego County and this nation,” Mendoza said in 2017.

Although SDSU did not drop the name, then-President Sally Roush appointed a 17-member Aztec Identity Task Force, which recommended the school retain the moniker but was divided on the Aztec warrior, a university timeline shows. In May 2018, Roush informed the University Senate of a plan to keep using the Aztec name while also establishing a governing body “to ensure recognition of and reverence for the Aztec civilization become part of daily life at SDSU.”

Responses to the latest push drew some mixed reactions on campus Wednesday.

“I don’t believe in that and I don’t condone that because I would be against it if it was my people,” graduate student Dominique Patton said. “Therefore, it’s only fair to say, ‘It’s not fair. Let’s change that. Let’s make it a little better.'”

But, as with the previous effort to remove the name, some traditionalists are pushing back against the idea of a change. Carlos Gutierrez, who performed as the Aztec warrior for more than a decade, said he welcomes the idea of celebrating the Kumeyaay, but believes the Aztec warrior tradition should continue.

“They need to elevate the Aztec warrior to be an official representative mascot,” Gutierrez said. “Representative at the highest level possible for San Diego State.”

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