U.S. NEWS
09/22/2018 03:52 am ET Updated Sep 22, 2018

California College Ditches Racist 'Prospector Pete' Mascot

Cal State Long Beach is cutting ties with a symbol of the Gold Rush that was a nightmare for Native Americans.

A southern California college has panned its Prospector Pete Gold Rush mascot as racist and is dumping him.

Cal State Long Beach announced Pete’s official demise Thursday. Part of his elimination will involve moving a 1967 bronze statue of Prospector Pete — also known as the Forty-Niner Man and modeled after a former student — from the central plaza on campus to an alumni area.

The school had used the idea of the Gold Rush when it was founded in 1949 to convey the idea of the riches of education. Its first mascot was Nugget the pack mule, and it later evolved to Prospector Pete.

But as the university’s “diversity grew and more voices were heard, we came to know that the 1849 California Gold Rush was a time in history when the indigenous peoples of California endured subjugation, violence and threats of genocide,” school president Jane Close Conoley said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the campus student government passed a resolution in March to completely retire Prospector Pete.

“Multiple scholars have cited the California Prospectors, also known as the 49ers, as culpable in violent and genocidal acts against the indigenous people of California,” the resolution reads. “Prospectors in California perpetuated colonization, white supremacy, racism and exclusion ideals not only against indigenous American communities, but also women, people of color and non-Protestant communities.”

 

The campus is located on land that once belonged to the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe, who were enslaved by white Spanish colonizers to build missions in the greater Los Angeles area.

The resolution noted that later more than 80 percent of the Indigenous American populations were killed in the 20 years following the Gold Rush due to malnutrition, enslavement and murder.

The school’s next step will be to choose a new mascot. Its athletic program is referred to simply as “The Beach.”

“We have evolved from Prospector Pete,” Conoley said. “We are more than one mascot. We are the Beach.”

CONVERSATIONS