Denali Name Restored to Famed Alaskan Mountain

McKinley, you’re out. Denali, you’re back. It’s official.

Mount McKinley will get back its original name, Denali; photo by Nic McPhee

The traditional and historic Alaska native name for North America’s highest mountain will be restored, President Obama announced today.

Obama will use executive power to restore the Alaska native name for the towering peak, a move made the day before a three-day trip to Alaska to push an agenda aimed at countering climate change.

The 20,237-foot Mount McKinley got its name from a gold prospector in 1896, who named it after then-presidential candidate William McKinley of Ohio. (He became president the following year.)

The government officially recognized the mountain as McKinley in 1917. But people continued to regularly use the former, arguably more beautiful and fitting name (it means “The Great One”).

The name has been a point of contention for years, as many saw it as a slight against Alaska Natives. Earlier this year, two U.S. Senators, including Alaska representative Lisa Murkowski, introduced a bill to restore the name.

She released a video (above) in support of the measure. “For generations, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as ‘the great one,’” she says in the video. “I’d like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska.”

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.