February 21, 2011

Honoring Indians with swastikas

My Native Threads Accused of Nazism reminds me of the long history of swastikas in the US. Here's a sampling of this history:

Western use of the swastika in the early 20th centuryAs a Native American symbol

Because this was a popular symbol with the Navajo people, the Arizona Department of Transportation marked its state highways with signs featuring a right-facing swastika superimposed on an arrowhead. In 1942, after the United States entered World War Two, the department replaced the signs.

The swastika's use by the Navajo and other tribes made it a popular symbol for the Southwestern United States. Until the 1930s, blankets, metalwork, and other Southwestern souvenirs were often made with swastikas.
Use by the military

The 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army used a yellow swastika on a red background as a unit symbol until the 1930s, when it was switched to a thunderbird. The American Division wore the swastika patch while fighting against Germany in World War I.

The U.S. Army 12th Infantry Regiment coat of arms includes a number of historic symbols. A tepee with small, left facing swastikas represents the unit's campaigns in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. The Regiment fought German forces during World War II, landing on D-Day at Utah Beach, through five European campaigns and received a Presidential Unit Citation for action during the Battle of the Bulge.
Government use

Swastikas and the similar Greek key symbol appear in decorative features of a number of U.S. federal, state and local government buildings including schools and county courthouses.

Swastikas surround the exterior window iconography at the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington D.C. on Constitution Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets.

The Reno, Nevada Post Office features both left and right facing swastikas, along with other designs typical of "Zig Zag Moderne" style, later known as a variation of "Art Deco."

Place names

Swastika Park is the name of a housing subdivision in Miami, Florida, created in 1917. An upscale subdivision in Denver is named "Swastika Acres." Its name has been traced to the Denver Swastika Land Company, founded in 1908.

Commercial use

The K-R-I-T Motor Car Company, Detroit, Michigan built cars from 1909 to 1915 with a radiator badge that featured a right-facing white swastika on a blue background.

The Crane Valve Company manufactured steel valves in the 1920s and 30's in the U.S. with swastika markings, using a symbol with the arms pointed to the right.

Use in popular culture

In the 1936 H. P. Lovecraft novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, a symbol of the Old Ones was described by a character as, "Something like what ye call a swastika nowadays."

Swastika quilt patterns were popular in America prior to World War II.

Use by non-political clubs and organizations

The Ladies' Home Journal sponsored a Girl's Club with swastika membership pins, swastika-decorated handkerchief and a magazine titled "The Swastika." Their version of the symbol was square with right facing arms. The club was formed around the 20th century to encourage young women to sell magazine subscriptions.

The 1939 Tennessee State University yearbook lists a "Swastika Club" among women's student organizations. The group focused on literature, scholarship and "clear and straight thinking."

Coins, tokens, and watch fobs

Collectors have identified more than 1,400 different swastika design coins, souvenir or merchant/trade tokens, and and watch fobs, distributed by mostly local retail and service businesses in the United States. The tokens that can be dated range from 1885 to 1939, with a few later exceptions.
For more on the subject, see Nazis Tried to Subvert Indians and Reclaiming the Swastika.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the swastika thing shows up in anime a lot and tends to get censored. Not always, though; Shaman King features shikigami with the swastika. (On the flip side, Wizards of the Coast removed it from a Pokemon card. Oddly, the "colorless energy" symbol was associated with Zionism in Arab states.)

Conversely, the Rising Sun gets censored when American media are imported to Asia.

And of course the uppercase Greek letter gamma is one-quarter of a swastika.

Burt said...

Many ancient symbols predate the Nazi swastika during WWII.

Excavations from the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys found similiar icons; Hindus; Bhuddist; the Greeks; Slavic people and within the last century and more recently, some European and Asian businesses use the swastika for symbols or icons.

A main difference is that the Nazi swastika is slanted on its tip while these symbols are flat 90 degree images.

If you go to the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, Oklahoma on the north oval is a building that houses the Western Collections library (with the Kiowa Five paintings). On the top of the buildings rooftips facing north (and south) are swastikas with owl sculptures relieved into the building.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see Southwest Indians Renounced Swastika.

Jilvsgi said...

Two & a Half Men: Alan has a little Hitler mustache penned on his upper lip by a frisky girlfriend. He looks at it and says, "It's actually a good look. Too bad one guy had to ruin it for everybody else."