President Obama Restores Mount McKinley’s Native Name, Pays Homage to Alaskan Tribes


President Barack Obama used his exclusive executive powers on August 30 to officially restore America’s tallest mountain, Mount McKinley, to its original and cultural Alaskan name, “Denali.”

The President announced the news on the eve of his three-day trip to Alaska to promote a bold action plan for battling climate change, which is part of a larger series of steps to address the troubles of native Alaskan tribes.

This is the latest try on the President’s behalf to act on his 2008 campaign promise to mend relations between the nation’s tribes and the federal government. It is seen as a very important political constituency, given its vast history of grievances against the governing body.

Denali’s name has been an example of this, regarded as cultural imperialism where the Native American name that had historical roots was replaced with an American one that had little to nothing to do with the location.


The tallest American mountain was officially called McKinley for almost a hundred years. While announcing that the secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell, had used her authority to rename the peak all those years ago, President Obama simultaneously paid tribute to the province’s native populations. They had previously referred to the mountain as Denali, which, on translation, means, “The High One,” or “The Great One.”

At over 20,000 feet, the site has been central in the creation tale of the Koyukon Athabascans, a tribe that has inhabited Alaska for several thousand years. And President Obama, free of impending elections, took time out to put a year-long fight between Alaska and Ohio to rest.

Former U.S. President, William McKinley, after whom the mountain was named, was born in Ohio. And the electorally powerful state rebelled against the re-christening of the place.


However, in spite of legally recognizing it after the former president in 1917, efforts to reverse the name change began in 1975. In an awkward compromise in 1980, the national park around the area was named “Denali National Park and Reserve,” but the summit itself continued to be known as Mount McKinley.

In a video released on August 30, Republican of Alaska and Senator, Lis Murkowski, was shown rejoicing at the country head’s decision. She had earlier made a lot of efforts to rename the mountain, all to no avail. But she had reason to celebrate on Sunday, and thanked the president for working with them to help them “achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska.”

Davis, J.H., “Mount McKinley Will Again Be Called Denali,” The New York Times web site, August 30, 2015;


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