Denali or McKinley? Congress Dukes it Out Over Peak's Name

Competing bills aim to decide the name of North America's highest point

Pop quiz: The highest point in North America is…

If you answered Mount McKinley, you’d be wrong according to a Senate bill sponsored by Alaska’s delegation.

In an increasingly rare bit of bipartisan cooperation, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) sponsored legislation to officially change the name of the highest peak in the U.S. to its historic Athabascan Inuit name: Denali.

“I have nothing against President McKinley, whatsoever, but I would rather have this peak be called by the name it has gone by for centuries by Alaskans than a man who never set foot in our state,” said Murkowski in a statement accompanying her introduction of the bill in January.  "This is the tallest mountain in North America and we deserve to have this Alaskan landmark bear an Alaskan name.  My bill will go back to the future to give ‘The Great One’ its rightful name.”

Although this is not the first time Murkowski introduced legislation to change the mountain’s name, this time around it has the support of Senate public lands subcommittee chair Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who championed the bill in hearings last week, according to Reuters.

Standing in its way? Democratic representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, President McKinley’s home state.

Ryan introduced a competing bill in the House to reaffirm the government’s commitment to the name Mount McKinley.

“Mount McKinley has borne the name of our 25th President for over 100 years,” said Congressman Ryan in a statment. “We must retain this national landmark’s name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot.”

As it stands, both bills are currently in committee.

The mountain has been a magnet to climbers since its first ascent, one-hundred years ago this year, and gives its traditional name to Denali National Park. Descendants of the original team to summit Denali (There, I said it!) are planning a centennial climb to mark the historic event.

Via Reuters.


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