He’s the gun-toting, horse riding mascot of New Mexico State University. If you’ve been to an Aggie game, you know Pistol Pete.
“My fondest memories of Pistol Pete was always him rallying the student body during football games. He was a really active member in creating the student moral for NMSU,” said Alexander Stanojevic, an NMSU alum.
Aggie alum will tell you, he’s the face of NMSU. “He would come on a horse for football games, basketball games he would get the crowd going with his pistols up,” said Kristopher Cadena, another NMSU alum.
However, when talk started about putting a new roundabout at the school’s entrance with a sculpture of Pistol Pete in the middle, it sparked controversy.
“Certain faculty finds it objectionable because Pistol Pete is modeled after a real person that lived in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Christopher Brown with the Faculty Senate.
Brown said questions were raised about the sculpture and what Pete represents.
“Is this what we want to have as our welcoming statue to the university, because Native Americans may find it objectionable?” he said.
A memorial was written by a number of faculty members in an effort stop the construction of the statue, stating it’s a “problematic representation of NMSU as a colonial, racist, sexist institution built on violent history.”
The memorial goes on to say placing the statue at the gateway to NMSU would be traumatic to the community especially indigenous people, gun violence victims, and women.
However, the alumni KRQE spoke with don’t see it that way.
“I can definitely understand and appreciate how it becomes a topic of controversy but I never took offense to it,” said Cadena.
“Personally I think it’s a little ridiculous to go above and beyond to think it’s a negative image,” said Stanojevic.
Alumni also say that the Pistol Pete that would be represented in the statue is a conservative portrayal. “It’s the cowboy on a horse with the flag, pistols are not blazing, they’re holstered so I would be for the proposed statue,” said Cadena.
This isn’t the first time Pete has faced controversy. In 2005 NMSU changed Pistol Pete’s image, replacing his pistols with a lasso. While still named “Pete”, fans began calling him “Lasso Larry.” The guns were brought back two years later.
The memorial tackling the latest controversy will be heard by the Senate next month. The university wants to make it clear that if the statue doesn’t include Pistol Pete, they have not made plans to replace Pete as their mascot.