A beautiful mountain in the Pacific Northwest is getting a new name… and it’s about time. Oregon’s Swastika Mountain is the mountain in question — but there’s no question as to why many think the mountain should be renamed.
Keep reading for all the details, from the history of the mountain, the meaning behind the swastika symbol, and what we know so far about the name change.
Oregon’s Swastika Mountain will finally get a new name.
On Wednesday, local Oregon news outlet KOIN reported that the Oregon Geographic Names Board announced that it will officially be changing Swastika Mountain’s name.
The new name has yet to be revealed, but as of publication, the board has already received submissions of two possible new names.
The first is Umpqua Mountain — this would be a simple choice, as Swastika Mountain is located within Umpqua National Forest. According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, the word Umpqua translates to “a place along the river.”
The other proposed name is Mount Halo. Greenwich Time reports that the name is a nod to Chief Halito, aka Chief Halo, a past leader of the Yoncalla Kalapuya tribe.
The Oregon Geographic Names Board plans to unveil the mountain’s official new name on Dec. 6, 2022, giving the board just over three months to make a final decision.
The History of Swastika Mountain: Why is it called that?
Swastika Mountain is located in the Umpqua National Forest, in the Oregon city of Eugene. According to PeakVisor, the mountain was named after the town of Swastika, which was founded in 1909 (a decade before Hitler co-opted the symbol — more on that below) and no longer exists. Resident Clayton E. Burton named the town Swastika inspired by the swastika-shaped branding iron to label his cows.
The blog Double Sided Media surmises that Burton was a fan of the swastika at the time because it was then considered a good luck charm in India, as the Sanskrit work svastika translates to “well-being.”
The history of the swastika: To Buddhists, Hindus, and many others, it used to be a purely positive symbol.
Over a century ago, in 1920, Adolf Hitler decied to use the swastika as the symbol of Germany’s Nazi Party, as per Britannica. When the Holocaust began about two decades later, the symbol had grown to stand for the Nazi Party’s goals of racial purification, Aryan pride, and antisemitism, as well as the genocide and cruelty that defined the time period.
However, the swastika did not always symbolize such evil. According to Britannica, there is a record of the swastika symbol first being used more than 15,000 years ago, when it was engraved on an ivory bird statue. Additionally, the swastika was once a sacred emblem within several religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Odinism; it was also an oft-used marking on temples and homes in India and Indonesia, as noted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Over the years, the swastika had also come to symbolize positive things including fertility, health, and well-being — but of course, that all changed when the Nazis appropriated it.
Though the swastika did not have any negative associations when Swastika Mountain was first named, it’s nearly impossible to separate the symbol from hatred and brutality today. Renaming this mountain is long overdue, and also an important step in making the outdoors more accessible and welcoming to all.