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Oregon Geographic Names Board to consider replacing offensive names of some features

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Swastika Mountain is a summit in Lane County, Oregon. It is located within Umpqua National Forest. The mountain took its name from the extinct town of Swastika, which was reportedly so named because a rancher there branded his cattle with the image of a swastika. Swastika Mountain is under consideration for renaming.

What’s in a name? That’s a question the Oregon Geographic Names Board will consider at a public meeting in Eugene Saturday for proposals to re-name six features in five Oregon counties.

The process to re-name something like a river or a hill, starts with an application. Perhaps a name needs changing because it’s moved out of the modern lexicon. Maybe it’s just downright offensive.

Oregon Historical Society’s Kerry Tymchuk sits on the Board. “One of the items we’re going to be discussing is Swastika Mountain in Lane County,” he said. “Now, this received the name long before Adolf Hitler and long before the swastika was used with the Nazi party. It was used as a brand of a local rancher forty, fifty years before.”

Tymchuk said other re-naming proposals are for a Wasco County summit known as “Chinaman Hat,” a knob in Grant County and a ridge and two creeks in Douglas County, all containing the word “negro.”

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Chinaman Hat is a peak in Wasco County, Oregon and has an elevation of 3,533 feet. Chinaman Hat is situated east of Bald Mountain.

According to the Oregon Historical Society, geographic names have been documented and standardized in the United States since 1890, when President Benjamin Harrison established the United States Board on Geographic Names (USBGN). Since 1908, the OGNB has supervised the naming or re-naming of geographic features within the state of Oregon. The OGNB is comprised of 25 volunteer members who make recommendations to the USBGN. Re-naming authority ultimately lies with the U.S. Geographic Names Board.

The OGNB public summer meeting is at 1pm this Saturday, August 20th, in the Maple Room of the Inn at the 5th in Eugene.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.