It was a move that was not only a long time in coming, but also somewhat of a no-brainer. On Sunday, the White House announced that Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak, would be renamed Denali, an Athabaskan word for “the High One.”
The Obama Administration says this is within the powers of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and that it was time to give the mountain’s name to the native people who knew the peak as Denali well before the United States was even a country.
I’m sure there will be some sort of political backlash. First, because President Barack Obama made it happen (one congressman is already calling it “constitutional overreach”). But second, because there is some historical resistance to officially giving the mountain its original name.
Ohio politicians have long fought the name-change. The mountain was named after William McKinley, a former U.S. president who is from the Buckeye State.
But Alaskans have been working on a change for some time now. Their contention is that most people in Alaska know the mountain as “Denali,” and that McKinley had no ties to Alaska or its highest mountain whatsoever.
The mountain is located in Denali National Park, and any federal employee associated with with the mountain calls it Denali. So do the mountaineers who climb it. And just about anyone else.
Aside from ruffling a few feathers in Ohio, the only inconvenience I see is having to change the name on new maps of Alaska, Denali National Park, and maps of the U.S. and North America.
We give a lot of respect and deference to our dead presidents. But in this case, it seems to desires of the living (as well as Alaskans from many generations back) deserve the name more.
So Denali it is. Finally.
— Bob Doucette