Senator Murkowski Files Bill to Change McKinley's Name to Denali
Alaskans have called North America's highest peak Denali for centuries
ANCHORAGE - Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking sees hundreds of climbers every year as they prepare to take on North America’s largest mountain. Store owner Paul Denkewalter said what people call it depends on where they’re from.
“Most climbers call it Denali. There are some climbers, European climbers and climbers from overseas who will call it McKinley because of what's written in books,” said Denkewalter.
A gold prospector named the mountain back in 1896 in honor of then soon-to-be president William McKinley, even though Alaska Natives had referred to it as “Denali” for centuries.
That’s why Senator Lisa Murkowski has reintroduced a bill to call it by its Athabascan name once and for all.
“We just call it Denali,” Murkowski said about her fellow Alaskans. “That's what we've always called it. Denali is an Alaska Native word, an Athabascan word, and it means 'the high one.' And when you think about this incredible mountain, you think it's pretty appropriately named.”
Alaskans approve of the name change. “I think it's great. I don't think President McKinley will turn over in his grave,” said Denali Parks resident Jeffery Shelton.
Not everyone is on board, however. President McKinley was from Ohio and lawmakers there want to keep his name on the Alaska attraction.
"Mount McKinley has borne the name of our 25th president for over 100 years," said Congressman Tim Ryan. "We must retain this national landmark's name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot."
Alaskans say Ohio needs to butt out of the Last Frontier’s business.
“I think it's a big joke. I don't think anyone from Ohio should have any say in Alaska,” said Shelton.
“To name peaks after people is kind of a short term thing because times change, people change, we don't even remember who the person is we named the mountain after. Naming it Denali could be an eternal name, one that will last forever,” said Denkewalter.
Senator Murkowski’s office said this will bill likely get lumped in with a larger set like interior appropriations or a land bill before it would head to the Senate floor. They’re hoping for a vote sometime within the next year.