On Sunday, August 30th, Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in the United States, was renamed “Denali” by President Barack Obama during his historic visit to the state of Alaska.
In 1896, the peak was named Mount McKinley to honor then-republican presidential candidate William McKinley, an Ohio native. Until that time, the mountain was known to the native tribes as “Denali”, which means “the high one” in the Athabascan tongue.

Although, geographically, the mountain is nowhere near Ohio (a fact that can be verified by any map), government officials from Ohio have expressed their outrage and disappointment at the renaming of this great peak.

House Speaker John Boehner and Ohio senator Rob Portman were among the republicans aggrieved over this recent development. Speaker Boehner said, “McKinley served our country with distinction during the Civil War as a member of the army. He made a difference for his constituents and his state as a member of the House of Representatives and as Governor of the great state of Ohio. And he led the nation to prosperity and victory in the Spanish-American war as the 25th President of the United States.” he went on to say that he was deeply disappointed in the decision.

According to the White House, the name change was meant as a gesture of recognition of the suffering endured by Alaska’s native population. Many tribes and villages have been forced to relocate due to natural disasters brought on by climate change.

It would seem that Republicans perceive this as a slap in the face to the state of Ohio, and a stripping of honors rightly due to the 25th president who hailed from that state. They seem less concerned with the fact that the mountain had been stripped of it’s original native name in order to name it after President McKinley, who had never dwelt in the state of Alaska.

Republicans feel that this is yet another example of President Obama going around Congress to achieve his own ends. They either fail to recognize, or refuse to recognize that the renaming of the mountain was meant as a conciliatory gesture to the native people of Alaska.

Without a doubt, President McKinley accomplished much during his administration, which ended abruptly in September of 1901 with his tragic assassination. It is hoped by republicans that a new way will be found to honor the 25th President of the United States.

Photo by Robert Thompson, 2001

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