Obama Renames Mt. McKinley 'Denali' Ahead of Alaska Trip

Denali is the Alaskan Native name for the mountain.

ByBenjamin Siegel
August 30, 2015, 6:13 PM

— -- President Obama has changed the name of Alaska's Mt. McKinley to Denali, the White House announced Sunday, a day before the president is set to visit the state.

"Denali" is the Alaskan Native name for the mountain, which is North America's tallest - and a site of cultural significance to Alaska's native population.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed the order renaming the mountain on Friday. Obama will officially rename the peak in Anchorage tomorrow, where he will kick off his presidential visit to the 49th state.

The name change follows a longstanding Alaskan effort to re-designate the mountain by its Athabascan name. In 1975 Alaska's governor formally requested that the secretary of the interior work to change the name, following a resolution from the Alaska State Legislature.

"For centuries, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as the 'Great One.' Today we are honored to be able to officially recognize the mountain as Denali," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, wrote in a statement.

For years, efforts to change the name in Congress have been stymied by Ohio legislators -- the home state of 25th president and the mountain's original namesake William McKinley -- who would block Alaskan attempts to rename the mountain.

"There is a reason President McKinley's name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement. "I'm deeply disappointed in this decision."

Prospector William Dickey named the mountain after McKinley, then a presidential nominee, in 1896, according to the National Parks Service. McKinley, who was assassinated six months into his second term in 1901, never visited Alaska.

The White House Sunday also announced several new Alaska initiatives ahead of the president's arrival, including an environmental engagement program for young Alaskans.

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