Mount McKinley Renamed Denali


President Barack Obama showed solidarity with Native Alaskans when he announced on Sunday that his administration was renaming Mount McKinley to Denali, the historic Koyukon Athabascan Indian name.

He timed his announcement to coincide with his three-day trip to Alaska where he is highlighting his views on climate change in the Arctic.

Denali is an Athabascan name that means “the high one” and is already being widely used across the state.

While Alaska’s governor and congressional delegation are praising the name change, others – most notably Ohio lawmakers – are unhappy that the mountain is being stripped of the name that honored native Ohio-son President William McKinley.

In 1980 Mount McKinley National Park was renamed Denali National Park, but at that time the federal government retained Mount McKinley as the name of the actual peak, an iconic landmark that rises 20,320 feet above sea level.

This week’s announcement ends a 60-year battle fought by the Ohio delegation to retain the mountain’s name in honor of the man who served as the 25th President of the United States from 1897-1901, and is widely acknowledged by historical scholars as the man who helped to modernize the American presidency.

There has been a longstanding controversy over the name that originated when a gold prospector suggested McKinley as a way to honor the 1897 Republican then-nominee for President. The mountain was formally recognized as Mount McKinley in 1917, but some in Alaska began to clamor for a name change as early as 1975.

On Sunday night the President issued a statement announcing that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell had used her authority to rename America’s tallest mountain with the name used for centuries by Alaskan natives.

And as quickly as that, Mount McKinley officially became Denali.

Photo credit: Dreamstime