by Oden Taylor
Pioneer, prospector, lumberjack— what do they all have in common? A significant role in the colonization of North America and a place as a California State University mascot. CSU mascots are rife with cultural insensitivity and, at times, blatant racism— if you don’t believe me, just google the San Diego State University Aztec Warrior.
The names of CSU campus newspapers also nearly always correspond with the school mascot. For example, CSU East Bay’s mascot is Pioneer Pete and the school paper, “The Pioneer.”
At Cal Poly Humboldt, “The Lumberjack,” both as a mascot and the name of our paper, symbolizes white supremacy and colonization. It is time for a change, starting with us. The Lumberjack must change its name to continue the removal of white power structures and symbols from indigenous land.
Lumberjacks worked alongside prospectors during the gold rush, making way for new settlers to build towns and ravage the land for its resources. After the gold rush ended, lumberjacks cleared old-growth redwood forests well into the twentieth century.
In fact, only 5% of the original old-growth redwood forest stands from Southern Oregon to Central California, according to the Save the Redwoods League.
There have been many name changes taking place across Humboldt county, from the Gutswurrak Student Activity Center here on campus to the name restoration of Sue-meg State Park. This change comes after nearly 170 years of being called “Patrick’s Point” for Patrick Beegan, a private land owner and accused murderer of Indigenous people, including a Yurok boy.
As of 2018, CSU Long Beach abandoned its longtime mascot, Prospector Pete, for Elbee the Shark. Shortly after CSU East Bay claimed to do the same, saying goodbye to Pioneer Pete. Four years later they have yet to choose a new mascot, according to their website.
Unfortunately, despite the example set by other schools and the opportunity presented by an expensive rebrand, Cal Poly Humboldt did not find it necessary to retire the Lumberjack, telling El Leñador in March that there are no current plans to change the mascot.
Though Long Beach has chosen a new mascot, neither campus changed the name of their newspaper. They remain Long Beach’s Daily Forty-Niner and East Bay’s The Pioneer. This lack of meaningful change promotes white supremacy in newsrooms, including ours.
We must move beyond just acknowledging the land we occupy and think critically about the messages we distribute and the symbols we use on it.
All CSU campus newspapers should reconsider what they call themselves and why. Does your publication’s name honor and represent your campus community?
It’s time we axed the Lumberjack. If the administration isn’t willing to do it, the change must start with us