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Native American Student Alliance proposes removal of Aztec mascot

Courtesy of Native American Student Alliance

Courtesy of Native American Student Alliance

by Allyson Myers, Staff Writer

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The Native American Student Alliance hosted an event on Feb. 15 to discuss the use of the Aztec as San Diego State’s mascot.

The event was part of the Spring into Diversity series hosted by Associated Students’ Student Diversity Commission and SDSU’s cultural organizations.

The event, titled “Why do you have to make it about race? Because our mascot is an Aztec,” was organized by the student organization. The event drew an audience of around 40 faculty members and students, and was led in a question and answer format.

The presentation and discussion was led by NASA president Marissa Mendoza and NASA secretary Raelynn Bichitty. Mendoza and Bichitty discussed the history of Native Americans in San Diego and the effects the Aztec mascot has on Native American students.

Mendoza said the mission period of California, when San Diego was first colonized by the Spanish, was a time of mass enslavement and genocide of the California Indian population. The missions themselves, which today are popular tourist-spots, were built by Indians by force, Mendoza said.

Articles published by PBS and the Los Angeles Times support the history presented by Mendoza.

“Spanish soldiers kidnapped Indians by the thousands. They also were forced to care for livestock, tanned hides, and produced candles, bricks, tiles, shoes, saddles, soap and other necessities. If they misbehaved, they were whipped, branded, mutilated or even executed,” a PBS article from 2006 reads.

California’s Indian population decreased from 150,000 to 30,000 between 1846 and 1870, according to an LA Times article written about the California missions in May 2016.

“Diseases, dislocation and starvation caused many of these deaths, but the near-annihilation of the California Indians was not the unavoidable result of two civilizations coming into contact for the first time. It was genocide, sanctioned and facilitated by California officials,” the article says.

The first mission built in California was Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, built in San Diego in 1769, according to the mission’s website.

The mission is a couple miles from SDSU, on the other side of the I-8 freeway in Mission Valley.

The mission is currently an active parish of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá’s website does not say that California Indians were forced to work, or that a genocide was committed, but that some of the Indians protested against the conditions implemented by the Spanish missionaries.

“Unfortunately, two of the mission or Diegueno Indians became dissatisfied with the regulations and conditions established by the Spanish authorities, and they incited hundreds of Indians in remote villages to riot,” it reads.

Mendoza said the Mission’s history is glorified by the architecture at SDSU.

Hepner Hall, the oldest building on the university’s campus and symbol of the school, is architecturally similar to the mission where Indians were enslaved.

Mendoza said this glorification of a painful history is offensive to Native Americans.

Bichitty said that in consideration of history, SDSU should not have a Native American mascot, which is a similar form of mockery to blackface, widely considered to be offensive to African Americans.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association implemented a policy in 2005 which prohibits participating teams “from displaying hostile and abusive racial, ethnic and national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships.”

SDSU’s mascot was not covered by this policy after the NCAA found that the Aztecs were not a Native American culture, according to an article published in August 2005 by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This finding was attributed to then-SDSU President Steven Weber, who said that SDSU did not find “any organized tribe or group related to Aztecs.”

Weber explained his findings in a letter written on April 27, 2005, to the NCAA’s vice president for education services, Ron Stratten.

“As I mentioned in my letter on January 3, 2003, the Aztecs are not a Native American or American Indian culture,” Weber wrote. “However, the Aztecs are central to the cultural heritage of Mexico.”

The Aztecs ruled a large empire in 15th and 16th century Mexico. The Aztecs were conquered by the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, in 1521, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica website.

Mendoza said SDSU is not on Aztec land, but on Kumeyaay land. The Kumeyaay tribe has been on San Diego land for at least 12,000 years, according to the tribe’s website.

Following the event, the alliance posted an official statement about the university mascot on their Facebook page. The statement said the mascot “embodies the existence of institutionalized racism.”

It also references a 2009 party hosted by the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, with the theme “Cowboys and Nava-hoes.”

Bichitty, who identifies as Navajo, said that this party perpetuated the over-sexualization of Native American women in popular culture, which she said served to dehumanize Navajo Indians.

Bichitty said this over-sexualization of Native American women is especially damaging since Native American women are at higher risk of sexual assault than any other group.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, Native Americans are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted compared to other races.

“We are individuals,” Bichitty said during the presentation.

Mendoza said that President Elliot Hirshman was invited, but he did not attend the event.

The Alliance presented their official statement to the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Outreach on Thursday, Feb. 23, and announced plans to email the statement to President Hirshman, Vice President of Student Affairs Eric Rivera, and Provost Chukuka S. Enwemeka.

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6 Comments

6 Responses to “Native American Student Alliance proposes removal of Aztec mascot”

  1. John McGrory on February 27th, 2017 10:31 pm

    Why must we endure this frivilous conversation over and over? The Aztecs Empire basically ended in 1525, when the invading Spaniards hung Cuauhetemoc. Therefore, I doubt there are any original Aztecs left to offend.

    Secondly, the Aztec Mascot represents a warrior and strength – two attributes that ANY group/tribe/ethnicity would be proud to have represent them.

    Stop the BS…I AM AN AZTEC FOR LIFE!!

  2. ari leon on April 19th, 2017 11:32 pm

    open letter to Raelynn Bichitty
    Really your a aztec decendant? based on what? DNA? since institutionalized racism.” was Practiced DAILY on the enslaved tribes by the Aztecs , have you not read the aztec history written in aztec pictographs? or did you bother to? probally not!
    the aztec terrorists had no specific race ! except being related to other natives since the aztecs were a mixed group of natives, and these freindly or your relatives did Commit acts of Genocide against others such as natives througout central mexico and southern regions with the mayas.
    so what bull are you trying to pull here at the University? Your a phony ! you should be held due to your admitting to be a aztec decendant is to be accountable for all the Human sacrifices your relatuves committed on others and then their enslavement and loss of Famlies and life.

    You have apparently no concept of the horrors of enslavement for using the captured for slaves, sacrifices such as cutting out beating hearts on a daily basis, and then more horrors of aztecs and even the mayas havin cookbooks of human parts, which the last original copy is on display in mexico city at their national museum

    As for europeons killing each other, yes for power and control, as other groups through history but there is no evidence they ever took thousands of slaves and then cut out their beating hearts for rain which included babies.
    And then most of the issues came when muslims after the year 700 ad expanded such as in Spain, but again the muslim religion was misused there and the backlash was headed by EL CID which removed the threat.

    The crusades was indeed a war against the muslim empire due to their ways against NON Christians such as killing non belivers in ALLAH . Having a muslim complain about supposed racist conduct of a mascot puppet as religious blashphomy is a oxymoron since in their culture they do not reconize statues or puppets as religious.

    The aztec empire was EVIL as the nazis and communists and your comments that its racist and offends native americans is misplaced and also ignorant, since most native tribes were against enslavement and human sacrifice and cared about life, the aztecs did not, and the aztecs dancing at tragic current events is OFFENSIVE since their religion if u can say that is one of DEATH which is contrary to most all the native tribes since they adored life not killing others.
    Also you mistated that Hernan cortez conquered the aztec empire, that is not true, he had the help of most of the subrogated tribes of the region of what is now mexico, and the aztec dipicted as a hero is wrong since they subrogated natives in the most horrible of ways, and although the spanish didnt treat the natives all that great either, they never encountered before any such terrible conditions with the aztec death culture, and that is why in the most part to them after seeing the human sacrifces daily in what is now central mexico city their program sort of speaking was to erased the death culture of the aztecs.
    Read about it or go to mexico and see for yourself, but dont claim your a actual desendant since you have no DNA proof you are.

  3. Andrew Hernandez on February 28th, 2017 1:16 am

    Thank God this is back, we couldn’t handle a year without this debate. This time it seems to be as absurdist as possible, with tenuous connections to things such as genocide (apparently diseases can have intent), blackface (something that’s done to mock people, whereas there is nothing mocking about the mascot), and rape, which is itself such a non-sequitur that I almost got whiplash. Apparently Native American women are over-sexualized by… somebody I guess, a charge which I have never heard outside of this article. What the article fails to mention about Native American rape statistics are the perpetrators which, unlike what is implied by the article, are also Native American. Reservation poverty and alcoholism have far-reaching consequences, and sexualization in the broader culture is an allegation so unfounded that it seems more akin to a conspiracy theory. Just having a mascot named after a mighty empire or impactful culture is not disrespectful. Ask the Celtics or the Trojans. There are even more teams, major and minor, named after cultures or the warriors thereof which never get called into question. This debate has been roundly addressed and this attempt to resurrect it is shameful and pathetic.

  4. Frank Davis on April 18th, 2017 10:08 am

    Looking at their Facebook page (what, they have 3 members) and a defunct website, the “Native American Student Alliance” appears to be a marginal group that wants to foist their agenda on students and alumni going back 60 years. Led by Monge, and activist and “lecturer” they want everyone to bow to their ideology. No thanks. This referendum will end up the same as the last one.

    How about an investigation into who the NASU really are and what Monge’s agenda is?

    Aztec For Life

  5. Spencer Williams on April 18th, 2017 10:12 am

    Yeah, native Americans were so offended they built Viejas arena for the Aztecs. You special snowflakes need to get a life.

  6. Lauren A Murphy on April 23rd, 2017 12:02 pm

    I read through a few of your artcles, comments, and Facebook page. I’m amazed that the faculty @ SDSU hasn’t pulled you (as an organization) aside to have a quite talk about logic, correlation of data and history. As a graduate of SDSU I was embarrassed to see this… and BTW I am part Native American. I am proud to be a SDSU Aztec. Your group does not represent all Native Americans or SDSU.

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