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Lane County summit officially goes from “Swastika Mountain” to “Mt. Halo”

Topographical map of a summit.
U.S. Geological Survey
A topographical map shows the 4,197-ft. peak formerly known as "Swastika Mountain" which was renamed "Mount Halo" on April 13, 2023.

A mountain 35 miles southeast of Eugene has been officially renamed to something less controversial.

“Swastika Mountain” is no more; now the roughly 4,200 ft. peak is “Mount Halo.” The name is derived from Kalapuya Chief Halito, who lived in the 1800s and whose village was 20 miles west of the mountain.

David Lewis is an assistant professor of anthropology and ethnic and Indigenous studies at Oregon State University, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. He said while some people have defended theswastika as a universal symbol for many cultures, its more recent associations are troubling.

“The symbol really has negative connotations from World War II, and its use as a symbol of fascism,” Lewis told KLCC. “And so we need to at times revisit names that have been given to the land, and to rivers, and towns, and maybe replace those with things that have more resonance with today’s society.”

David Lewis is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde.
Karen Richards
David Lewis is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names approved the name change at its April 13th meeting, and it takes effect immediately.

Lewis said the entire process began a year and a half ago, and he’s ready to do more.

“It’s really better for all Native people in Oregon, to start seeing the place names returning,” he said. “I’ve now renamed two places in Oregon. I renamed one of the 'squaw' river names in Tillamook County to Nestucca Bobb Creek. I’ve recently also helped with the “Knawk-Knawk” street name in Eugene, that means 'duck.' So I’ve become a specialist in place names now.”

Lewis said it’s important for names to better reflect current societal values.

Swastika Mountain’s namesake does predate Hitler’s Third Reich, which turned the symbol into one representing white supremacy, antisemitism, fascism, and genocide in the 1930s and 40s. It was reportedly named for a local ranch in Lane County that branded cattle with the symbol.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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