(Mercury News) – Cal State Long Beach’s mascot Prospector Pete will soon be no more.
After more than a year of controversy over whether to remove the statue of Prospector Pete, Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley announced on Thursday that the statue – the university’s 49er namesake of the Gold Rush – will be removed.
A timeline is yet to be determined, but the statue will be transplanted to a future alumni center.
“The Prospector Pete image grew from our founding in 1949 and reflected our Founding President Pete Peterson’s common references to having struck the gold of education by establishing Long Beach State College,” Conoley said in an email. “President Peterson was absolutely correct; education is precious.”
But, Conoley said, 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.”
Above: Connor King, who is the man under the Prospector Pete mascot costume, pumps up the crowd at a Long Beach State men”s basketball game at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, CA. on Thursday, January 9, 2014. (Photo by Sean Hiller/ Daily Breeze).
Cal State Long Beach is built atop of the village of Puvungna, a sacred site to the Tongva tribe.
In September 2017, Cal State Long Beach’s Associated Students Inc. started working on a resolution, which passed in March, to move or relocate the statue. It acknowledges the campus’ location on the land of the Tongva, whose people before the Gold Rush “were enslaved by settlers to build missions in the greater Los Angeles area.”
The resolution also says more than 80 percent of the indigenous populations were killed in the 20 years following the Gold Rush due to malnutrition, enslavement and murder; including legally sanctioned, state-funded incentives for California miners and prospectors to murder Native Americans.
The resolution says Cal State Long Beach will disassociate itself from Prospector Pete and all aspects that “glorify” the Gold Rush.
A new mascot is yet to be determined.
The bronze Prospector Pete statue was erected in 1967. The former student who was a model for it “is in favor of retiring the mascot, but not the statue,” according to the university’s Prospector Pete website.
In 2014, the university’s athletic department ditched the 49er mascot. It’s now known as Beach Athletics.
“We have evolved from Prospector Pete,” Conoley said. “We are more than one mascot. We are the Beach. A model of diversity, success and relevance. We are champions. We are informed by our past and prepared to face the future together.”
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