Silence fell over the Associated Students Senate Wednesday as a member of the American Indian Student Council spoke up against mascot Prospector Pete. Miztlayolxochitl Aguilera, a sophomore Chicano and Latino studies major had tears in her eyes as she faced the senate to explain what the statue meant to her and her Tongva ancestors.
“While I do respect that the artist did not intend for it to become Prospector Pete, that is what it has become,” Aguilera said. “The statue perpetuates the idea of genocide for Native people.”
Aguilera supports adding a plaque explaining the history of tribes in California or installing a permanent piece of art to honor victims of the prospectors during the Gold Rush. However, she doesn’t want the school to simply relocate the statue where it will collect dust and be forgotten.
“Don’t erase history, just acknowledge it, ”Aguilera said.
Senator Thulani Ngazimbi responded in agreement, encouraging the senate to help honor the indigenous people in Long Beach.
“I think it’s important that we try and do something positive for a change, we live in some pretty dark times,” Ngazimbi said. “Is tradition more important than the happiness of the students on this campus?”
Aguilera recalls her first semester at the university where she sat in a history class and the professor denied the existence of Native Americans.
“He said Native Americans don’t exist and that we came from Asia. So we had no right to protest or to demand rights,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera saw Prospector Pete as part of a problem that her cultural history hasn’t been acknowledged.
One of the authors of the resolution, Senator Leen Almahdi, added to the resolution that a faculty member and the chief diversity officer be added to the committee created to help remove Prospector Pete. The resolution will be sent to the associate vice president of marketing and communications, Andy Hoang.
“As a main author of the resolution, I have been working in close collaboration with members of AISC,” Almahdi said. “I’m glad I yielded time to her so she could speak for her community and stress why the issue of the statue and mascot is so important to many students and communities on campus.”