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Native 'Swastika' Raises Eyebrows — And Awareness — at Flea Market in Utah

Following protest, Swirling logs, not the Nazi symbol of hate, was permitted to stay on sale at the Salt Lake City flea market.

It's a symbol of Nazi hate. But it's also a centuries-old design used by numerous cultures.

In August, a group of protesters took umbrage in Salt Lake City, Utah, at a Flea Market over what they thought was Nazi symbolism on sale.

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What they learned was how ubiquitous the geometric design was prior to the Third Reich — that Natives used it, Buddhists used it, and Hindu art is riddled with it.

The flea market's organizer, Michael Sanders, told the Salt Lake Tribune that he decided not to pull the item "because it would be like saying Native American culture was bad."

Baldini has a Zia-whirling logs tattoo (by Thomas Hooper of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn) on each palm.

Baldini has a Zia-whirling logs tattoo (by Thomas Hooper of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn) on each palm.

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He said the design is instead "a rolling-log motif," not Nazi memorabilia.

“We don’t allow items like that to be sold,” Sanders said. “We went to look, and I know antiques and I knew exactly what it was when I saw it — a Native blanket with a rolling-log motif.” Nevertheless, amid shouts and demands, the vendor decided to pull the item," the Tribune reported.

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In 1943, the Navajo nation "denounced" the symbol after "the U.S. declared war" on Germany. Some have even thought the Diné adopted the symbol from the Nazis, Joyce Begay-Foss, director of the Living Traditions Education Center at the Santa Fe museum, told the Tribune. Instead, she said, she knows, historically for Diné people, it's an image of rolling logs.

“Unfortunately, it’s a hard thing to explain,” she told the Tribune. “We have to educate people that that symbol can mean so many things to so many people.”

Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith contributed to this report.