Patriots’ Owner Robert Kraft Wants The Name Of Wyoming’s Swastika Lake Changed

New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft is pushing to have the name changed of Wyoming's Swastika Lake in Medicine Bow National Forest.

LW
Leo Wolfson

June 19, 20235 min read

An effort is underway to change the name of Swastika Lake in southern Wyoming.
An effort is underway to change the name of Swastika Lake in southern Wyoming. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A proposal to change the name of a small lake in the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming that shares a name with the official symbol of the Nazi Party has drawn a nationwide response.

On Tuesday, the Albany County commissioners will decide whether or not to approve changing the name of Swastika Lake.

New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft sent a letter to Albany County Commissioner Pete Gosar on Friday, requesting commissioners support a recommendation to change the name of Swastika Lake, 33 miles west of Laramie in the Snowy Mountain Range.

He believes the name glorifies the Nazis and their treatment of the Jewish community.

“The swastika is still being utilized by many white supremacist and antisemitic groups to glorify the Nazis and signal their hate to the Jewish community,” Kraft writes. “We urge you to stand beside the Jewish people and rename Swastika Lake so as not to contribute to the retraumatization of many Jewish people and members of other communities across the United States who were victimized by the Nazi regime.”

The swastika is an ancient religious and cultural symbol now most recognized for its use by the Nazi Party and by neo-Nazis. It was one of the most publicized symbols of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime during World War II.

California resident Lindsy Sanders is proposing the lake’s name be changed to Fortune Lake, to align more closely with the historical meaning of the swastika — a sign of good fortune.

Kraft, chairman of the Foundation To Combat Anti-Semitism, said although there are some good meanings behind the word swastika, he said it serves as a painful reminder of the Holocaust for Jewish people.

Communism?

Swastika Lake has been named that since at least 1922. It is unknown who named the lake or what the inspiration for it was.

The city of Laramie also had a Swastika Store that advertised in local papers from 1914-1916 that sold paper and novelty goods. There was a Swastika Ranch located in the southern part of the county near the Colorado border around the turn of the century. There is no known connection between the ranch and the lake.

During a meeting earlier this month, the commissioners discussed the proposal to rename the lake, with Commissioner Terri Jones speaking against changing the name, an act she said would amount to communism.

“Why would we remove the teaching opportunity to explain history of the swastika, both good and bad?” Jones said at the meeting. “The bad was very bad. However, the good predated the bad by eons. And the good is truly good and represents hope and goodwill.”

Jones did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for follow up comment.

Although he understands Jones’ point, Gosar said he believes the negative connotation most people associate with the word “overwhelmingly” overweighs its positive original use and he supports making a name change.

“There were millions of people who lost their lives under that symbol,” Gosar said. “That’s something we have to consider.”

The commissioners will make a recommendation on the matter at their meeting Tuesday night. Jones is the only Republican on the three-member board.

Swastika Lake is in the Medicine Bow National Forest northwest of Centennial off Highway 130.
Swastika Lake is in the Medicine Bow National Forest northwest of Centennial off Highway 130. (Cowboy State Daily Illustration)

The Name Change Proposal

Sanders submitted the name change proposal to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in April. The federal-level board will consider recommendations from the Wyoming Board of Geographic Names and Albany County Commission before making a final decision.

Sanders said when Hitler decided to use the swastika for his party, it became one of the largest symbols for hate and antisemitism in much of the world outside Asia. 

That hate hasn’t disappeared today. The Anti-Defamation League reports that 2022 saw the most antisemitic incidents ever recorded in the U.S., even though Jews make up less than 2.5% of the American population.

Gosar also said he finds the symbol offensive to all veterans who served in World War II against Germany, a war in which one of his uncles died.

The Albany County Historical Society also supports changing the lake’s name. 

Kim Viner, secretary for the Historical Society, told commissioners his group is submitting its own proposal to have the name changed to Knight Lake, in honor of Samuel Howell Knight, a renowned local geologist and paleontologist.

Knight was named the Wyoming Citizen of the Century in 1999 by the American Heritage Center. He also founded the University of Wyoming Science Camp, which is located about a half mile from Swastika Lake.

Although Jones acknowledged Knight’s contributions, she urged commissioners to “not change names to soothe sensitive people.” 

“Limiting knowledge and removing history are the calling cards of communism,” she said.

Swastika robert kraft letter 6 19

Larger Trend

It’s not the first time changing the name has been considered. 

In April, Swastika Mountain in Oregon was renamed Mount Halo. 

In 2020, the small unincorporated community of Swastika, New York, opted to retain its name after receiving a request to change it. Similar to Swastika Lake, the town got its name prior to World War II. 

There has been a nationwide trend over the last decade to change names and remove designations considered to be offensive by some at the current time. 

Last year, 41 geographical features in Wyoming had the word “squaw” removed from them, a slur deemed to be offensive to Native American women. The Park County Commission opposed an earlier request to change the name of a mountain that used the word squaw in its county in 2020.

Gosar said he supports name changes or other actions deemed necessary.

“History should always be accurate, but we should be considerate to the symbols we use,” he said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter