When Gov. Jerry Brown arrived in Mountain View for a speaking engagement Monday, he had on his mind two statues on the west pediment of the state Capitol building, architectural elements he said he "noticed for the first time" at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony last week.
"Have you ever stood on the west side, where the tree was and looked up at the facade of the building, where they have those guys on horses with an arrow?" he said.
Brown wondered who the figures were and said, "I'm going to find that out."
According to a Smithsonian American Art Museum catalog, the sculptures are "Indian Being Attacked by a Bear" and "Indian Woman Being Attacked by a Buffalo." Both are replicas of pieces originally installed in 1873 but removed — and lost or destroyed — during restoration of the Capitol in 1948.
The replicas were installed in 1982, when Brown was governor before.
According to the Smithsonian, the bear sculpture "represents the erosion of primitive life in California" while the other "represents a vanishing way of life for the Indian in the nation."
Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, specializes in facts about the building's restoration. He said in an email that the statues "represent America in its natural state or natural history."
Brown might find something there to talk about in his State of the State address next month.
"They'll never do that in a new building, right? They have all these more functional buildings," he said. "I think it's just kind of interesting, so maybe in my State of the State I'll explain why that's significant ... You know, the architecture expresses a certain view of the world. That's a different view than the world today. So, it's part of our collective learning here."