Oregon Mountain Renamed to Honor Indigenous Chief

The mountain was renamed from Swastika Mountain to Mount Halo.

Hiking trail passing through Umpqua forest in Southern Oregon
A stream and hiking trail in Umpqua National Forest, Oregon where Mount Halo is located . Photo:

Bhushan Thakurdwarkar/Getty Images

A mountain in Oregon has been renamed from Swastika Mountain to Mount Halo in an effort to honor an indigenous chief.

The peak, which sits about three hours south of Portland, was renamed last month by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, part of the United States Geological Survey. The mountain was named for Chief Halito, a leader of the Yoncalla Kalapuya tribe who died in 1892. The tribal village was located about 20 miles west of the mountain itself. 

The decision to rename the mountain, which stands at 4,177 feet, was unanimously approved by the US Board on Geographic Names, according to CNN.

The original name was derived from the town of Swastika, which is now extinct, after the town reportedly took its name from the owner of a cattle ranch who would use the symbol to brand his cattle in a nod to the Sanskrit symbol meaning "good luck" or "well-being.”

"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," Kerry Tymchuk, the Boyle Family executive director of the Oregon Historical Society, told CNN. Renaming the mountain after the chief "was the right thing to do."

The mountain’s new namesake was known for negotiating treaties and fighting for his “right to remain on his land,” David Lewis, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, told the network.

"For me it's like returning some of the heritage back to the area," Lewis said.

This isn’t the only area in the United States that has been renamed. Last year, a popular spot in Grand Canyon National Park was renamed to honor the Havasupai Tribe, changing from “Indian Garden” to “Havasupai Gardens.”

Earlier this year, five locations in California, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas were also renamed to remove the term “sq—,” a derogatory term for indigenous women. And in 2015, Mount McKinley in Alaska was renamed Denali, restoring an Alaska Native name.

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