Denali or McKinley? How a 19th century political ‘joke’ turned into a 119-year …

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Daily Talker: Mount McKinley Renamed Denali.

The Obama administration will change the name of North America’s tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, the White House said Sunday, a major symbolic gesture to Alaska Natives on the eve of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Alaska. Mount McKinley — the 20,237-foot mountain and the tallest in North America — has been renamed Denali, as it was originally known by Alaska Natives before it was renamed to honor President William McKinley. By renaming the peak Denali, an Athabascan word meaning “the high one,” Obama waded into a sensitive and decades-old conflict between residents of Alaska and Ohio. President Barack Obama will carry that urgent message to Alaska this week in the hopes his long journey away from his busy agenda in Washington will begin to change the national conversation on global warming.

Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, said in an interview on 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. Under an order signed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the Denali name will also take effect for all federal usage and, therefore, on all official maps. As part of his visit, Obama is attempting to show solidarity with Alaska Natives, and planned to hold a round-table session with a group of Alaska Natives just after arriving Monday in Anchorage. Whether it’s a hike on a melting glacier near the town of Seward or his visit with fisherman in the remote coastal village of Dillingham, the President wants a distracted public to see the jarring effects of global warming through his own eyes. But when European Americans discovered it in the 19th century, they renamed it Densmore’s Mountain and, later, Mount McKinley in an effort to boost the presidential candidacy of Republican William McKinley.

Alaska has been petitioning for a name change since 1975, but a bipartisan effort by Ohio’s congressional delegation has blocked the effort by introducing bills requiring it to be named after McKinley, who was born in Niles, Ohio and buried in Canton. The national park that surrounds the mountain was named Denali in 1980, but the peak itself is still listed in official federal documents as McKinley. That’s because the United States Board on Geographic Names has a long-standing policy of not making name changes under consideration by Congress. “While the board does have a policy of deferring action when a matter is being considered by Congress, contradictory bills on this issue have been proposed by various members of Congress since the late 1970s,” Jewell said in her order. The arctic has warmed almost twice as fast as the rest of the world and portions of northern Alaska have lost a “football field’s worth of land a day to coast erosions and sea-level rise,” Deese said. Obama will deliver remarks at a conference of arctic nations in Anchorage to foreign ministers representing counties with a vested interest in the region.

Upon hearing the news that McKinley, a Republican, had received his party’s nomination to be president, the prospector named it after him and the name was formally recognized. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank recently warned Moscow is boosting its military presence in the arctic, dubbing the Russian ambitions as “the ice curtain.” The rapid ice melt in the Arctic is more than just a military concern. As the President noted in his weekly address, the state’s independent governor warns four Alaskan villages are in “imminent danger” and must be relocated. “Think about that. If another country threatened to wipe out an American town, we’d do everything in our power to protect ourselves,” Obama said in the address. “Climate change poses the same threat, right now.” Even though environmentalists welcome the President’s focus, some conservationists have accused Obama of climate hypocrisy, citing the recent approval for Royal Dutch Shell to begin oil and gas drilling in the Chukchi Sea off of Alaska’s northwest coast.

The tweet featured a rendering of Obama wearing a Shell oil patch on his chest and standing on an aircraft carrier with a banner reading “Mission Accomplished,” a reference to the image of President George W.

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