President Obama plans to rename Alaska’s Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America, as Denali to show the federal government’s harmony with the state’s native people, the White House announced Sunday.
Mr. Obama had the mountain renamed Denali, an Athabascan word meaning “the high one,” to recognize the sacred status of the mountain to generations of Alaska Natives, said the White House.
Alaskans for years have called the mountain Denali, and the word isn’t unheard-of in the Lower 48, in part because “Denali” is the name of the national park in which it is located.
But its official U.S. government designation has been Mount McKinley after the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley, who was assassinated early in his second term.
The new name for the mountain is one of several initiatives Mr. Obama will unveil during a three-day visit to Alaska that beings Monday and will focus on strengthen cooperation between the federal government and Alaska Native tribes.
The announcement by Mr. Obama will finalize a name-changing process initiated by the Alaska in 1975, with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell using her authority to formally recognize the mountain as “Denali.”
The proposal has been resisted by lawmakers in Ohio, McKinley’s home state.
The mountain, which rises more than 20,300 feet above sea level, got its name from a prospector who was exploring the range in 1896 and learned that McKinley has won the Republican presidential nomination. As a show of support, the prospector declared the tallest peak of the Alaska Range as “Mt. McKinley.”
The name stuck — until now.
The mountain is considered a site of significant cultural importance and central to the creation story for the indigenous people of the region.