Obama Administration Restores Mountain’s Native American Name, Continues Beef

By Kenrya Rankin Aug 31, 2015

This continent’s tallest mountain is having a full circle moment. Once called Denali by many of the area’s Native people including the Koyukon Athabascan, it was renamed Mount McKinley in 1896 in honor of President William McKinley. But on August 30, 2015, ahead of President Barack Obama’s trip to Alaska, where the range cuts into the skyline, secretary of the interior Sally Jewel announced that the Obama administration is reinstating its original name. Denali is said to mean, “the great one.” 

“This name change recognizes the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives,” Secretary Jewell said in a statement. “The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975, but even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations. 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.”

The president is heading to Alaska to push his environmental policy and “view the effects of climate change firsthand,” from more severe storm surges to increased wildfires, according to the White House. He is scheduled to meet with Alaskan Natives during his three days there.

Previous attempts to change the mountain’s name were thwarted by lawmakers from Ohio, where McKinley was born. The six million-acre park that surrounds the mountains was renamed the Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded the change:



For centuries, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as the ‘Great One.’ Today we are honored to be able to…

Posted by Lisa Murkowski on Sunday, August 30, 2015


But her Ohio counterpart, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), took to Twitter to tell the world why he’s mad:




Columnist Andrew Malcolm also chimed in:



The order was signed August 28, 2015, and went into effect immediately.


(H/t ThinkProgress)