Senators Want To Rename Mount McKinley

If Alaska lawmakers are successful, Mount McKinley will be returned to its original name, Denali; photo by Nic McPhee

Two U.S. Senators from Alaska have introduced a bill to return Mount McKinley to its historical and Alaska Native name, Denali.

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan introduced the bill Wednesday to formally call the mountain by its Athabascan name, Denali, according to a KTUU Anchorage report.

Past attempts to rename North America’s highest mountain (20,237 feet) have failed. Matthew Felling, Murkowski’s spokesman, said the legislation faces better odds with the current Republican Senate majority.

“I believe that there is an understanding that Alaska should have more of a say on what happens in and to Alaska,” Felling said. “In a Republican Congress, there will be more sympathy.”

The mountain is currently named after the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley of Ohio. He was assassinated in 1901, six months into his second term.

Murkowski and Sullivan said the mountain has a longer known history with the name Denali, which means “the Great One” or “the High One.”

“Alaskans take great pride in this gorgeous natural monument, so it is important that we grant it its ancestral name to honor and respect our heritage as well as the lands through a name that goes back centuries,” Murkowski said in a statement. “This is our Alaska, and this should be our decision.”

Sullivan, who is married to an Alaska Native woman, said the Athabascan people named the mountain thousands of years ago.

“Denali absolutely belongs to Alaska and its citizens — and with all due respect to my colleagues and the good people of Ohio, where President McKinley was born and where I have many friends and family, the mountain is not theirs to name,” Sullivan said.

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.