Obama Gives Mount McKinley a New Name

Old battle between Alaska, Ohio apparently comes to an end
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2015 5:30 PM CDT
Obama Gives Mount McKinley a New Name
This Aug. 19, 2011 file photo shows Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska.    (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

Looks like North America's tallest mountain won't be Mount McKinley anymore. President Obama announced today that Sally Jewell, the secretary of the interior, has renamed it Denali—restoring a name that Alaska Natives and state residents have used for years, Alaska Dispatch News reports. "I think for people like myself that have known the mountain as Denali for years and certainly for Alaskans, it's something that's been a long time coming," says Jewell. The "secretarial order," released the day before Obama's three-day trip to Alaska, appears to end a longstanding battle between Alaska and Ohio over who gets to name the 20,000-foot peak.

A gold prospector christened the mountain in 1896 after hearing that William McKinley—not yet a US president—had just won the Republican presidential nomination, the New York Times reports. But Alaska Natives had long called it Denali (which means "the great one" or "the high one") and revered it in the creation story of Koyukon Athabascans, who have lived in Alaska long before the US existed. For decades, Alaska has filed a bill every year to change the peak's name to Denali and saw the move blocked by legislators in Ohio, McKinley's home state. Ohio officials haven't yet said whether they'll try to block the name change, the AP reports. (The National Park Service recently said it didn't object to changing the name.)

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