Unnoticed for 100 years, Oregon’s Swastika Mountain to be renamed

After going unnoticed for 100 years, the remote site’s name drew attention – and opposition – after two hikers were rescued from its peak.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Swastika Mountain in a remote Oregon national park is soon going to receive a new name with more pleasant associations than Nazi Germany after attention was drawn to its moniker earlier this year.

Located in the Umpqua National Forest, the mountain, which most state residents had never even heard of, got into the news after two hikers were rescued from its 4,197-foot-high peak during a snowstorm in January.

Shocked by the name, locals began pressing for it to be changed, with octogenarian Joyce McClain writing to the Oregon Historical Society and its Geographic Names Board formally proposing a switch.

According to a report last week on station KEZI-TV, the volunteer-run board has confirmed that it will rename the peak in its end-of-year meeting in December. Based on the suggestion of a local tribal chief, it will be called Mount Halo, after a 19th century chief of the Yoncalla Kalapuya tribe.

“People need to come forward and take action when they see something that isn’t right or needs to be changed, because one person can make a difference, and this shows how that is so true,” McClain told National Public Radio (NPR) last month.

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Also interviewed on NPR, Kerry Tymchuk, executive secretary of the Society, said that names matter, even as he noted that this particular site was not very accessible or well-known.

“What we name things, our features, reflects history, but also reflects values. And as history changes, so do values,” he said. “And certainly, something bearing the name Swastika in 1903 is different than in 2022, when it’s been associated with such an evil person and evil ideology.”

The mountain had originally been named for Clayton Burton, a local rancher who lived in the area in and used the symbol to brand his cattle in the early 1900s. In 1909, he even founded the town of Swastika, which is now no longer exists.

In those days, it was simply considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity in several religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

That changed irrevocably after the Nazis adopted it as their exclusive symbol in 1920.