Albany County Commissioners Vote 2-1 In Favor Of Changing Name Of Swastika Lake

By a 2-1 vote Tuesday, Albany County commissioners are officially recommending Swastika Lake in southern Wyoming be renamed Knight Lake in honor of a local geologist and paleontologist.

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Leo Wolfson

June 21, 20235 min read

Medicine Bow National Forest

The Albany County Commission voted 2-1 on Tuesday night to recommend changing the name of Swastika Lake, which carries the stigma of being the symbol used by the Nazi Party, to something with a more local connection.

The commissioners voted to support changing the lake’s name to Knight Lake in honor of Samuel Howell Knight, a renowned local geologist and paleontologist. The lake is a relatively remote lake in the Medicine Bow National Forest, 33 miles west of Laramie in the Snowy Mountain Range.

In voting against the name change, Commissioner Terri Jones said the swastika symbol has a much deeper history that extends far beyond its use by Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in World War II. 

Jones believes all history, positive and negative, should be taught and that by keeping Swastika Lake’s name, it can serve as a teaching point for those who visit to learn about one of the worst atrocities in history.

“I believe this to be the impetus for the raise of antisemitism,” Jones said. “We have a culture that cleanses, disinfects and neuters all aspects of history. The rest of the story is not being told.”

The Swastika Lake naming debate has caught the attention of people outside the southern Wyoming region. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent a letter to Albany County commissioners urging them to recommend changing it.

The commission’s recommendation will be considered by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and Wyoming Board of Geographic Names for an official name change proposal.

Appropriate Move Or Revisionist History?

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

Jones describes the U.S. government as employing “Nazi tactics” to divide people against each other and that erasing knowledge and removing history are the “calling cards” of communism.

Kim Viner, secretary for the Albany County Historical Society, said at Tuesday’s meeting that Jones is using a “communist canard” to make her argument. The Historical Society is submitting the official proposal to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to have the lake’s name changed to Knight Lake.

Viner pointed to the fact place called Swastika Ranch that was also located in Albany County near the Colorado border now has a different name.

Some History

The swastika is an ancient religious and cultural symbol with connotations to good fortune and well-being. It continues to be used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The symbol also was used extensively by Native American tribes as a symbol of the four winds and good luck.

Despite this heritage, in 1940, representatives of the Hopi, Navaho, Apache, Tohono O’Odham tribes renounced and banned the use of the swastika on their artwork. 

“Because the above ornament, which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries, has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples, therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more, our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika,” the tribes’ proclamation reads. 

Jones said in no way does she support anti-semitism or want to “pick a fight.” Rather, she seeks to promote open education and discussion of history.

“It’s important to remember that the Nazi Party stole the universally beloved symbol to trick people into thinking the Nazis were good,” Jones said.

She read a letter sent to her by Albany County historian Dicksie May, who said those who want to change the lake name have no desire to teach about the positive connotations associated with the swastika symbol before it was used by the Nazis.

Jones also mentioned that certain schools around the nation have removed an adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary over the past year and how a contingency of conspiracy theorists believe the Holocaust to be a hoax. 

She believes the rise in people denying the Holocaust will result in a repeating of history and that American schools are failing in preventing this from happening.

Commissioner Sue Ibarra disagreed, saying the swastika name “doesn’t belong on anything 

in Albany County,” a statement Commission Chairman Pete Gosar said he agrees with.

Knight Beats Fortune

California resident Lindsy Sanders submitted the original proposal to have the lake’s name changed to Fortune Lake, to align more closely with the historical meaning of the swastika.

The commissioners didn’t discuss why they chose Knight over Fortune at the meeting.

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 on “Fortune” and “Knight” before making a final decision.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Sanders said she also would support another name recommendation like Knight if it was deemed more appropriate and reflective of Albany County heritage. 

“My goal here is really to remove a name that is painful to so many people and that is accomplished whether or not we use Fortune Lake or whether we use Knight Lake,” she said.

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter