Beyond Denali: 5 renamed American landmarks

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Alaska-bound, Obama makes waves by renaming Mount McKinley.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shrinking glaciers, Arctic temperatures and a mix of messy energy politics await President Barack Obama on his historic trip to Alaska. There was no reason, Stewart explained in his 1945 tome “Names on the Land,” why a New Hampshire gold prospector of little consequence should have been able to christen America’s tallest peak.“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.” — U.S.

McKinley — North America’s highest peak — “Denali” during his trip to The Last Frontier this week. “Mount McKinley … has held the name of our nation’s 25th President for over 100 years,” Rep. Obama flies to Anchorage on Monday morning for a three-day tour of the nation’s largest state, closely choreographed to call attention to the ways Obama says climate change is already damaging Alaska’s stunning scenery.

Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “This landmark is a testament to his countless years of service to our country.” Gibbs also described Obama’s action as “constitutional overreach,” saying that an act of Congress was required to rename the mountain, because a law formally naming it after Ohio’s William McKinley was passed in 1917. “This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans, and I will be working with the House Committee on Natural Resources to determine what can be done to prevent this action,” Gibbs said. “We must retain this national landmark’s name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot,” Democratic Rep. For decades, the mountain has towered over the Alaskan taiga — still impressive, still impassive, still the tallest thing for five thousand miles in any direction — while members of Congress debated how to label it. Obama, who will speak at the closing of an international conference on the Arctic, wants to shore up public support to tackle what he calls “one of the greatest challenges we face this century.” His visit comes just months before a crucial conference in Paris — known as COP21 — in December that will aim to cap global temperature increases by two degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels. “What’s happening in Alaska is happening to us,” Obama said before leaving Washington. “It’s our wakeup call. Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, said in an interview Sunday that the new policy announcement would have a concrete as well as psychological effect on Alaska Natives. “It’s symbolic,” Kitka said, “but the practical thing is now on all the maps and all the descriptions it will have the traditional name. By showcasing thawing permafrost, melting sea ice and eroding shorelines, Obama hopes to raise the sense of urgency to deal quickly to slow climate change in the U.S. and overseas.

It took an executive decision from the White House and the Department of the Interior in favor of “Denali”, the original Athabascan name, to end the dispute. His excursion north of the Arctic Circle will make Obama the first sitting president to step foot in the Alaska Arctic, home to Alaska Natives who have received less attention amid Obama’s recent efforts to improve conditions for Native Americans. Obama has just imposed, much to the chagrin of his Republican opponents in Congress, strict standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

America is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and has committed to a reduction of 26-28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 compared to 2005. They scored it an error, thankfully so, and I was able to finish it off.” — Jake Arrieta on pitching the sixth no-hitter in the majors this season and second against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 days, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 2-0 victory. I am deeply disappointed in this decision.” The state of Alaska has had a standing request to change the name to “Denali” — a native Athabascan word meaning “the high one” — dating back to 1975, when the legislature passed a resolution and then-Gov. Not to mention the Athabascan people, who arrived in Alaska several thousand years ago and had been calling the peak Denali, or “great one,” long before Europeans ever reached the Alaskan wilderness.

He was also the only adventurer with the chutzpah to designate a geographic landmark for his favorite political candidate (perhaps it’s a good thing America is fully mapped now, otherwise we might end up with the Donald Delta or Clinton Creek). Yet Obama was to navigate far more turbulent political waters when he arrived Monday afternoon in Anchorage, where his grand declarations on climate change have been met with skepticism by leaders in a state that’s heavily dependent on oil revenues that have fallen precipitously. He named the mountain “after William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the presidency, and that fact was the first news we received on our way out of the wonderful wilderness,” Dickey wrote in 1896. And the Alaska Oil and Gas Association called on Obama to “strike a reasonable balance” and reminded him that the oil and gas sector accounted for 110,000 jobs. Only about 737,000 people live in Alaska. “If Obama is going to be the climate change leader the world needs, he must revoke Shell’s permits to drill in the Chukchi Sea,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The mixed signals that Obama is sending with his energy and climate policies are truly baffling,” she added. “It’s been frustrating to watch him say eloquent, inspiring words about addressing climate change, and then to watch him betray those words with his actions.” The mountain had been named in 1896 for a future US president, William McKinley, but local authorities had worked on the change for years, restoring an Alaska Native name with deep cultural significance.

They took particular offense at his administration’s move just a few weeks ago to give Royal Dutch Shell a final permit for expanded drilling off Alaska’s northwest coast. “I share people’s concerns about offshore drilling. Board on Geographic Names had been deferring to Congress since 1977, and cited a 1947 law that allows the Interior Department to change names unilaterally when the board fails to act “within a reasonable time.” The board shares responsibility with the Interior Department for naming such landmarks. As a gold prospector with a vested interest in keeping the value of the precious metal high, Dickey picked the name as a form of symbolic revenge against silver standard supporters, with whom he spent much time bickering.

Rob Portman (R-Ohio) fired off several tweets Sunday evening indicating that he was “disappointed” with the move to jettison McKinley’s name. “This decision by the Administration is yet another example of the President going around Congress,” he tweeted, adding a moment later, “I urge Admin 2 work w/ me 2 find alternative ways 2 honor McKinley’s legacy somewhere else in the natl park that once bore his name.” Still, there was resistance to “Mount McKinley.” Missionary Hudson Stuck, a member of the first team to reach the mountain’s 20,237-foot summit in 1913, lobbied hard for the peak to be re-labeled Denali. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, sought to shift attention back to Alaska’s energy needs. “I want to highlight one aspect of Arctic policy that I hope will be at the forefront of the discussion: the people who live in the region, and their need for sustainable economic activity,” Murkowski said, praising oil revenues for funding advances in medicine, communications and basic infrastructure.

Stuck often spoke out against the mistreatment of Alaskan Natives and apparently believed that they were more in need of appreciation than McKinley (who was, after all, already on the $500 bill). Obama and Kerry are intensely focused on a global climate treaty that nations hope to finalize in December, as the president works to secure his environmental legacy before leaving office. Shortly after Alaska gained statehood in 1959, Alaskans — many of whom had never stopped referring to the mountain as Denali — began to wonder why the state’s natural crown jewel should be named for a president from Ohio. His visit continues Wednesday in Dillingham, in southwest Alaska, where Obama will meet with fishermen locked in an ongoing conflict with miners over plans to build a massive gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest salmon fishery. But the pro-Denali contingent still wasn’t satisfied, so the congressman soon adopted a different tactic, according to the National Park Service’s “Administrative History of Denali” (a stirring read).

But most Alaskans were “super-happy,” as 29-year-old Celeste Godfrey, who leads tours in Denali National Park, told the Alaska Dispatch News. “Super-duper happy — verklempt, if you will.”

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