Where is Swastika? A look at its history as the small New York town votes to keep its name
A small town in upstate New York has voted to keep the name Swastika, citing reasons that the town founders named it after the Sanskrit word meaning'good fortune' and not the hate symbol linked with Nazis. The town is a tiny hamlet in Black Brook, in Clinton County, New York, which is situated 19 miles southwest of Plattsburgh. The Town of Black Brook board voted unanimously to not change the name after a New York City resident Michael Alcamo urged to change it.
Alcamo, while cycling through the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York found the name of the village he had crossed into a bit jarring. "I thought, it was disrespectful," he told NPR, especially to the veterans of World War II with graves nearby. So he reached out to the town to ask if they would consider changing the name. "Swastika was named by the founders of the area who settled there," said Jon Douglass, Black Brook's supervisor, who was at the meeting that voted against the name change. After five minutes of discussion at their September 14 meeting, the town's four councilors unanimously voted against it.
The four-sided geometric symbol has been used for thousands of years in some of India's religions and is seen as a symbol of good luck, however, the Swastika's meaning was overshadowed beginning in the 1930s with Adolf Hitler rise to fame and once it became a symbol for Nazism and anti-Semitism. Douglass said, "I think that's probably, maybe some viewpoint that it's associated with hate. But then I believe there are others that do not associate it with hate," he said. "Did the Hindus and the [Buddhists] and all them, did they erase it from their religious history because of the Germans?"
CNN reported that the name Swastika was given by the town's original settlers in the 1800s. Further, Swastika is based on the Sanskrit word which means "well-being," as told by Douglass. He said, "We regret that individuals, for out of the area, that lack the knowledge of the history of our community become offended when they see the name.” He continued, “To the members of our community, that the board represents, it is the name that their ancestors chose.
Now as the name has been retained by the town, here is what we need to know about the history of the hamlet.
The town’s history
Swastika is located in the town of Black Brook, Clinton County in New York. It is 19 miles southwest of Plattsburgh. Coming to its name, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise states that the hamlet’s name far predates World War II. As per a 1977 article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, the place was known as Goodrich Mills before a post office was established there in 1913, the site reported. Further, Edward C Duprey, Swastika’s last postmaster before the office was closed and consolidated with Peasleeville’s post office in 1958, told the Press-Republican that the Swastika name was chosen from a list provided by the federal government in 1913.
Previously, in April 2019, a neighborhood in a Colorado town outside Denver voted to change its name from Swastika Acres to Old Cherry Hills. This area, as per CNN, had once been home to the Denver Land Swastika Company who chose its name before Nazis adopted the swastika symbol.
The word sounds contentious due to its relation with Nazi Germany. However, its symbol first appeared nearly 7,000 years ago. In fact, it is deemed a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other belief systems. Later, the symbol of Swastika gained high popularity in Europe in the late 19th century and early 20th century as Europeans learned about ancient civilizations through the work of archaeological excavations. The Nazi Party adopted the hooked cross as its symbol in 1920 during nationalist movements in Europe making the word's meaning sound controversial.