As confederate monuments on college campuses across the country have become a topic of heated debate, Cal State Long Beach University’s mascot Prospector Pete has come under scrutiny by members of the campus.
While Prospector Pete, the spirit of the 49ers, seems to have only just become a topic of contention — the argument itself is old news. According to Craig Stone, American Indian studies director and professor, this issue has been around since the ‘70s.
“I’ve been against that mascot and wanted it to go away since 1976,” Stone said. “This is actually a long standing concern of the Native American community on campus from the ‘70s onward.”
Questions about the school’s identity were noted since the school’s annual Convocation on Aug. 25, after President Jane Close Conoley referred to the school as “LBSU” which is normally affiliated with “The Beach,” as opposed to “CSULB,” which is associated with the “49ers.”
Terri Carbaugh, associate vice president of public affairs said in an email that President Conoley prefers to use LBSU instead of CSULB, but is not planning on officially changing the name of the school.
“Each of these names denote we are a campus located in Long Beach and she will not weigh-in on other people’s word preferences,” Carbaugh said. “She believes regardless of what you call us, we remain One Beach.”
According to the Press Telegram, CSULB’s athletic department released a new visual identity in 2014, using “The Beach” for all of the school’s teams instead of “49ers.” The baseball team however, has remained the Dirtbags.
What lies ahead for Prospector Pete has been placed in the hands of administration and faculty.
CSULB Provost Brian Jersky said in his Provost message that President Conoley has appointed Jersky, Anna Sandovol, professor and chair of the department of Chicano and Latino studies; Craig Stone and Griselda Suarez, academic advisor in department of Chicano and Latino studies to discuss the future of Prospector Pete.
“We will be looking at the cultural and educational implications surrounding this statue as well as what is appropriate for its future and especially important reconceptualizing the space in which it stands,” said Jersky.
Like many other times before, signs were placed around Prospector Pete on the first day of the semester, one reading: “the prospectors were [Murderers].”
“Especially for California Indians, Prospector Pete is an icon of genocide,” Stone said.
According to Stone, many don’t understand the reasoning behind the argument and says it may be a direct result of not being taught about the prospectors and miners role in the mass killings of California Indians during the gold rush.
“When we first started in 1949, the census of Long Beach and other surrounding areas was around 99.9 percent white,” Stone said. “These are the growing pains from moving from a monocultural university to a multicultural university.”
As a public art project, Stone sometimes places a blindfold on the statue alongside a sign that says “blind history 1846-1873,” the dates of the California gold rush. Stone and the American Indian student council have been hanging signs, organizing activities and art projects around Prospector Pete for over 30 years.
“There’s a distinction between monument and mascot; I think it’s important that the statue is there,” Stone said. “It reminds us of our beginnings and how we were founded.”
Students such as Leo Cortez, a sophomore year communications major retain support of the mascot his statue.
“I think it should remain,” Cortez said. “It’s so iconic and [CSULB] would feel different without it.”
Others believe the mascot should be replaced and say that the discussion isn’t relevant.
“It’s offensive, this tradition is based on bad history,” said Rudy Sequoia, a senior criminal justice major. “We shouldn’t even be talking about it anymore, we should be discussing what the new mascot will be.”
Both Stone and Sequoia agree that using any one person or nationality for a mascot is inappropriate. Suggestions of what the mascot should become have ranged from the Beach and the Sharks, to Ernest Hemingway.
“Some people have renamed [Prospector Pete] Ernest Hemingway because he looks like him and he doesn’t have a cowboy hat,” Sequoia said. “It could be a cheap alternative to changing our mascot.”
Stone encourages students to become more educated about California’s history on the genocide of American Indians, and to keep pursuing the fight for a new mascot, despite the battle’s longevity.
“If you want change, you have to embrace perseverance,” Stone said. “It’s neat that the time may have finally come where this might actually change.”