The statue of Cal State’s mascot Prospector Pete will soon be removed in order to decouple the university from California’s gold rush and its impact on native Americans, says Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley.
A timeline is yet to be determined, but the statue will be transplanted to a future alumni center, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
The Prospector Pete image reflected Founding President Pete Peterson’s common references to having struck the gold of education by establishing Long Beach State College, Conoley told the newspaper 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.”
In September 2017, Cal State Long Beach’s Associated Students Inc. started working on a resolution that passed in March to move or relocate the statue. It acknowledges the campus’s location of being placed on Tongva Tribe land, whose inhabitants are said to have been enslaved by settlers to build missions in the greater Los Angeles area.
The resolution also says 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; including legally sanctioned, state-funded incentives for California miners and prospectors to murder Native Americans.
The resolution says Cal State Long Beach will dissociate itself from Prospector Pete and all aspects that “glorify” the Gold Rush. A new mascot is yet to be determined, but the Cal State Long Beach website says input is welcome during the Imagine Beach 2030 event on Nov. 14-15, an online conversation that will discuss the future of the university.
The bronze Prospector Pete statue was erected in 1967. It sits on the South side of campus, near the Psychology and Liberal Arts buildings. A former student in the 1960s was a model for the statue.