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Oregon’s Swastika Mountain is officially renamed after Indigenous chief

By Paradise Afshar, CNN

Oregon’s Swastika Mountain has been officially renamed after an Indigenous chief.

The US Board on Geographic Names unanimously approved and then announced on April 13 the name change to Mount Halo, a reference in honor of Chief Halito of the Yoncalla Kalapuya Tribe, according to Kerry Tymchuk, the Boyle Family executive director of the Oregon Historical Society.

The former name of the mountain in the Umpqua National Forest stems from the extinct town of Swastika, which reportedly took its name from the owner of a cattle ranch who would brand his cattle with the symbol, CNN previously reported. The rancher used the symbol because it was a Sanskrit symbol meaning “good luck” or “well-being,” Tymchuk said.

Following World War II, the mountain’s name remained even after the symbol became associated with hatred.

“The name Swastika used to stand for something else, but since it was co-opted by the Nazis for the last, almost century, it has stood for an evil philosophy,” Tymchuk told CNN, adding that naming the mountain after the chief “was the right thing to do.”

Chief Halito, also known as Chief Halo, had lived in a village 20 miles west of the mountain.

David Lewis, assistant professor at Oregon State University, previously told CNN the chief died in 1892. He was known for negotiating treaties and holding on to his “right to remain on his land.”

“For me it’s like returning some of the heritage back to the area,” Lewis said.

Joy McClain, a resident of Eugene, Oregon, helped spearhead the change after she noticed the mountain’s name in a local paper.

“It feels pretty good that one little person could make such a difference,” she told CNN.

McClain had submitted a proposal to the Oregon Geographic Names Board, requesting to change the name to “Umpqua Mountain” to acknowledge the Umpqua River and the Umpqua National Forest.

At the same time, another proposal was forwarded to the OGNB to rename the mountain “Mount Halo,” Tymchuk said previously. McClain then decided to relinquish her proposal in favor of naming the mountain after Chief Halo.

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