Obama renames tallest mountain in North America as Denali

Obama renames tallest mountain in North America as Denali

Meeting the long pending demand of native Americans in Alaska, US President Barack Obama has decided to rename the highest mountain in North America as "Denali" instead of its existing name of "Mt McKinley".

"This designation recognises the sacred status of Denali to generations of Alaska Natives," the White House said on eve of Obama's travel to Alaska where he would formally announce his decision in this regard.

In 1896, a prospector emerged from exploring the mountains of central Alaska and received news that William McKinley had been nominated as a candidate for President of the United States. In a show of support, the prospector declared the tallest peak of the Alaska Range as "Mt McKinley" — and the name stuck.

McKinley became the 25th President of the United States, and was tragically assassinated just six months into his second term.

"But he never set foot in Alaska—and for centuries, the mountain that rises some 20,000 feet above sea level, the tallest on the North American continent, had been known by another name—Denali," the White House said.

"Generally believed to be central to the Athabascan creation story, Denali is a site of significant cultural importance to many Alaska Natives. The name 'Denali' has been used for many years and is widely used across the state today," the White House said in defence of its decision.

"Today, finalising a process initiated by the State of Alaska in 1975, President Obama is announcing that the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell used her authority to rename the mountain as 'Denali'," the White House said.

"This name change recognises the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives," Jewell said. "The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975, but even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations," she added. 

"With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska," the Interior Secretary said.

Since 1987 and until today, the official name of the mountain in federal publications has been Mount McKinley. The mountain retained the federally authorised name Mount McKinley, even as the name of the national park was changed in 1980 from Mount McKinley National Park into the new (and larger) area named Denali National Park and Preserve under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the Department of Interior said.

Denali National Park & Preserve, where the mountain is located, was established in 1917 and annually sees more than 500,000 visitors to the six million acres that now make up the park and preserve. About 1,200 mountaineers attempt to summit the mountain each year, typically about half are successful. 

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