by Eddie Carpenter
Humboldt State University is now Cal Poly Humboldt, and with this shift comes a lot of rebranding. Cal Poly Humboldt’s marketing partner SimpsonScarborough recently sent out a survey regarding possible logo concepts. If the marketing and rebranding is at the heart of this process, I think that we are in a dire need of new mascot. After all, what does a lumberjack really represent?
At first glance, it’s a kind of nod to how pervasive the culture of the timber industry used to be in Humboldt County. At one point in time, it dominated the local job market.
My father was among the masses who used to log up in the hills and work the mill yards. Nowadays, the industry’s number of workers has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be. Therefore, this figure has sort of faded to the background of the public imagination.
When my friend used to go to the campus bookstore, she was always greeted by a lumberjack cutout that you could put your face in. This is where you too could’ve been a large bearded white man wielding an ax.
Even in advertising, lumberjacks are portrayed asserting their dominance over nature with brute force.
When I look at our mascot, I am reminded of the horrors committed by American settlers in Northern California. In my Native American Studies class, I learned about a book called Genocide in Northwestern California by Jack Norton. In the 1850s, white settlers saw the forests and valley floors as barriers to Manifest Destiny.
There are pictures that depict how the invaders swaggered around mutilated tree trunks. In their final judgment, the white settlers had set fire to the entire forest in order to make sure that the redwoods were vanquished. In turn, Indigenous populations saw their homelands turn to ruins.
I do not think an icon with such a checkered past is very representative of the social equity and diversity that our departments wish to strive for. It is the manifestation of white, cisgendered, heterosexual and patriarchal values.
The question still remains: what should our new mascot be, if not Lucky the Lumberjack? I think that we should consider rebranding ourselves as the Cal Poly Humboldt Bigfoots.
If a tree falls down in the forest and nobody is around to hear it— it must be Bigfoot! He is an anomaly that simply cannot be contained. He thrives by hiding in the foliage and greenery of his environment. Bigfoot could come to represent our local community’s stewardship of the environment.
Whether you’re a skeptic or believer (or perhaps somewhere in between), you cannot deny the impact that the mighty Sasquatch has left around the world. Graduating as Cal Poly Humboldt Bigfoots could mean leaving nothing but footprints in our wake instead of taking from others.