The Obama Administration will rename the tallest mountain in North America as a symbolic gesture to Alaska’s native population–and remove the name of a former Republican president.
Mount McKinley is named after the 25th President of the United States William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901. McKinley was a Republican.
The mountain’s new name will be Denali, an Athabascan word meaning “the high one.”
“With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska,” said Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.
Whether the mountain should be called Denali or Mount McKinley has been a contentious issue for decades–especially because McKinley never visited Alaska. Many Alaskans informally call the mountain Denali, but the name of the mountain had officially been Mount McKinley.
Though the mountain had been known as Denali by the locals, it got its name in 1898 after a man exploring the mountains heard McKinley had won the Republican nomination for President–and decided that the name of the tallest mountain in central Alaska should be McKinley. The federal government officially recognized the name as Mount McKinley in 1917.
The decades-long fight pitted Alaska against, interestingly, Ohio, where President McKinley was from. Ohio politicians were livid at Obama for unilaterally changing the name without Congress’s approval.
Obama plans to go to Alaska for three days to hold listening sessions with Alaskan Natives and to drum up support for his climate change agenda.
While he plans to showcase the effects of rising temperatures on Alaska’s landscape and its impact on native populations, Obama will instead be greeted by a rare summer snow during his trip to Alaska.