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Swastika Mountain in Oregon Is (Finally) Getting a New Name

By Ken Ossea, Jr.
Scenic Oregon is saddled with an unfortunate mountain name.
Scenic Oregon is saddled with an unfortunate mountain name. / Richard Hicks/Moment via Getty Images
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Unfortunate names for cities and other locations abound, from Intercourse, Pennsylvania, to Slickpoo, Idaho. Some wear it as badge of honor. Others find it mortifying, as in the case of a mountain outside of Eugene, Oregon, dubbed Swastika. Fortunately, action is underway to find a different moniker.

According to Smithsonian, Swastika Mountain, located in the state’s Umpqua National Forest, got its name in the early 1900s, long before the Nazis commandeered the symbol to write one of the darkest chapters in human history. The 4197-foot-tall mountain was named after cattle rancher Clayton E. Burton, who branded his cattle with the symbol, which was once considered representative of good fortune and used across various religions. Such uses were overshadowed by the Nazi Party’s adoption of the design in 1920.

So how did Swastika Mountain endure for this long? Apparently, Oregonians had little idea it even existed. The name drew attention earlier this year, when news reports of two hikers being rescued from the area made it a prominent story.

Since then, Oregon residents have been lobbying for a change. Joyce McClain, who read about the hikers and was subsequently alarmed by the name, made a formal written request to address the situation. A tribal official has suggested renaming it Mount Halo, after the 19th-century leader Chief Halito (or Halo) of the Yoncalla Kalapuya tribe. The matter is before the Oregon Geographic Names Board, with a confirmed change expected to be submitted for final approval to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names by year’s end.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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