It’s About Time! Mount McKinley Name Changed Back to Denali

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown September 2nd, 2015 Last Updated on: September 2nd, 2015

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Alaska Natives and others were pleased to hear that the highest mountain peak in North America was now officially named Denali, no longer Mount McKinley. The United States Department of the Interior released an official statement on the matter and went into a little history behind the name. Read more below:

In recognition of the long history of strong support from Alaska state, tribal and congressional leaders, and in resolution of an official request for a name change pending for 40 years, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the highest mountain in the United States and North America, formerly known as Mount McKinley, will be officially given the traditional Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali.

President Obama endorsed Jewell’s decision to issue a Secretarial Order that officially changes the name. Jewell is granted the authority to make such changes in certain cases per the 1947 federal law that provides for the standardization of geographic names through the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The name change will be reflected in all federal usage.

“This name change recognizes the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives,” Secretary 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. 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.”

Since 1987 and until today, the official name of the mountain in federal publications has been Mount McKinley. The mountain retained the federally authorized 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.

“Recognizing the long history and discussion about the name of this iconic American mountain, the time has come to restore the traditional Alaska Native title Denali for this landmark, which holds great significance to the people of Alaska,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

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 Mount McKinley – and the name stuck.

For centuries, the mountain that rises more than 20,000 feet above sea level, the tallest on the North American continent, had been known by another name – Denali. McKinley, our 25th President, was tragically assassinated just six months into his second term, but he never set foot in Alaska.

On March 11, 1975, Governor Jay S. Hammond of Alaska requested that the Secretary of the Interior direct the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to officially designate Mount McKinley in Alaska as Denali. This proposal, never withdrawn, is based on a resolution that was passed by the Alaska State Legislature.

Since 1977, the Board, in deference to potential congressional action, had not resolved the proposal for changing the federally recognized geographic name from Mount McKinley to Denali. Secretary Jewell’s action today finally resolves the March 1975 petition by former Governor Hammond.

Now of course the name change irked a few folks, especially those in Ohio, where President McKinley was born. Also Donald Trump added his two cents because he has to open his mouth about everything these days, right?

Donald Trump doesn't have the greatest track record with Native Americans so it is no surprise he would immediately change it back.

National Geographic listed four other mountains that Indigenous people would like to see renamed. Devil's Tower in Wyoming, Harney Peak in South Dakota, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens both in Washington State.

So what do you guys think of the name change? Can you think of any other mountains or parks you'd like to see changed?

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » It's About Time! Mount McKinley Name Changed Back to Denali

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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Drew Waepew-Awaehsaeh

I’m a Native and I’ve LIVED in Ohio all my life!!! As far back as I can remember,having President’s that grew UP in this state!?!? SO??? They get HUGE LANDMARKS named after them??? Even if I became the most POPULAR man on this planet and had more money than I knew what to DO WITH,if someone wanted to name a LARGE Landmark after me,I’d graciously smile and say “Thank-You………but NO Thank-You!!! ” and let the people who LIVE WITHIN the landmarks proportions,decide on the name instead!!!

Julie Davis

It’s a great name but I think naming an SUV after it has ruined it for me.


looking at the mountain I see a great glow of joy from the spirits, and a peace that the mountain has missed since the white man changed it’s name of Denali.

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