Native and transplanted Alaskans aren't the only ones who call North
America's highest peak "Denali." In all my entries about Denali National
Park in 2012 and this summer I believe I've used "Denali" regarding the
mountain and not "McKinley."
Although I was born in Ohio and spent my first 25 years there, I've
always thought it was sacrilege to name this magnificent mountain after
a person who never once set foot in the state of Alaska. If politicians
had to rename it for a white person who had something significant to do
with the state, it would have made much more sense to name it after
Seward than McKinley.
Above (7-15-15) and below (8-9-12): Denali
from a distance on the park road
Even that would have been controversial, though. It shows absolutely no
respect for those who settled the area many thousands of years before
Americans, Europeans, and Russians decided they wanted to live
I think it makes the most sense -- and is the most respectful
-- to leave place names as close to the original as possible. Native
Alaskans used names that identified places for their locations or
special characteristics i.e., descriptive monikers, not in recognition
So I was really, really happy to read today that the name of The High
One has been officially returned to "Denali."
That's not even the original Athabascan spelling, but at least it's in
the same spirit as the original name.
Above and below: Denali from the Eielson
Visitor Center, Mile 66 on the park road (8-9-12)
Denali from the rooftop of the Eielson Visitor
Denali mesmerizes me when I'm in the national park or trying to
view it from Anchorage or the Parks Highway on a clear day. It
dominates the horizon unless hidden by clouds, which is about
70% of the time. We were fortunate to see it so often in 2012.
I'm putting some of my best photos of the mountain from our four
visits to the park in this entry. My very favorite picture continues
to be the one I'm using as this year's page header. I've had that on
my computer screen for three years (four, at the time I'm finally
uploading this entry).
My only regret is that I didn't visit the park and try to climb
Denali when I was much younger. Imagine negotiating these beautiful
ridges in the month of May when there is even more snow . . .
Close-up of Denali's south (L) and north peaks
<sigh> I'm just too old to do it now.
TWO ARTICLES RE: THE RE-NAMING
link to the article from the Alaska
Dispatch News that I read today and have copied below. The article quoted at
the top of the page appeared on September 1 and is also an interesting
read so I've copied it, too.
President Obama OKs Renaming of Mount McKinley to Denali
by Erica Martinson August 30, 2015
It’s official: Denali is now the mountain formerly known as
With the approval of President Barack Obama, Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell has signed a “secretarial order” to officially change the
name, the White House and Interior Department announced Sunday. The
announcement comes roughly 24 hours before Obama touches down in Anchorage
for a whirlwind tour of Alaska.
Denali is the Koyukon Athabascan name for the mountain.
Jewell’s authority stems from a 1947 federal law that allows her
to make changes to geographic names through the U.S. Board on Geographic
Names, according to the department. The National Park Service stirred up
interest earlier this year when they registered no objection to a name change in a
Above (7-21-15) and below
(8-11-12): Denali from the alpine trail
up Thorofare Ridge above Eielson
“I think for people like myself that have known the mountain as
Denali for years and certainly for Alaskans, it's something that's been
a long time coming,” Jewell told Alaska Dispatch News Sunday.
“It's something (former Alaska Gov. Jay Hammond) pushed for back
in 1975, and because of an effort to stop it in legislation that has not
actually gone anywhere in the last 40 years, the Board of Geographic
Names did not take it up,” Jewell said. As Interior Secretary she has
authority to make a unilateral decision after a “reasonable time has
passed,” Jewell said.
“And I think any of us would think that think that 40 years is an
unreasonable amount of time. So we're delighted to make the name change
now and frankly I'm delighted that President Obama has encouraged the
name change consistent with his trip,” Jewell said.
Above (8-11-12) and below
(7-21-15): Denali from top of Thorofare Ridge
Every year, the same story plays out in Washington, DC: Alaska
legislators file a bill to change the name from Mount McKinley to
Denali, and every year, someone in the Ohio congressional delegation --
the home state of the 25th President William McKinley -- files
legislation to block a name change.
Jewell said the “overwhelming support for many years from the
citizens of Alaska is more robust than anything than we have heard from
the citizens of Ohio,” and that the filing the same legislation year
after year has not been accompanied by any “grassroots support” in
Above and next two photos below:
Denali from the park road between
Eielson and Wonder Lake, miles
66-82 on the park road (8-9-12)
Neither Jewell nor Obama are expected to visit Denali during their
trip to the state this week. “But I've certainly been to the park
before, before I took this job,” Jewell said. “I am a climber -- I have
aspired to climb it, but I'm not sure it's going to be on my list in the
future, due to the fact that I'm not getting younger each year. But it's
a mountain that I've always respected and appreciated.”
“I think most of us have always called it Denali. I know that's
true in the climbing community and I suspect it has been true in Alaska
for a very long time. So it'll just be great to formalize that with our
friends at the U.S. Geological Survey and the board of geographic
names,” Jewell said.
LiveScience article I found
interesting when doing an internet search later:
Why 'Denali?' Explaining Mt. McKinley's New
by Elizabeth Palermo September 1, 2015
North America's tallest mountain peak just got a new name. Or,
more accurately, the mountain formerly known as Mount McKinley just got
its old name back.
On Sunday (Aug. 30), during a trip to Alaska, President Obama said
the name of the state's 20,237-foot (6,168 meters) mountain would
officially be changed to Denali, which is what many Alaskans have called
the peak all along.
Above and next two photos:
Denali from Mt. Margaret a Mile 17 on the park road (8-15-12)
The word "Denali" is derived from Koyukon, one of the 11
Athabascan languages traditionally spoken in Alaska. In the Koyukon
language, the word for the mountain is "Deenaalee," and at least five
other Athabascan languages have similar names for the Alaska Range's
highest peak (though these names are pronounced differently), said James
Kari, professor emeritus of linguistics at University of Alaska
Fairbanks and a specialist in Athabascan languages.
"Then you have 'Denali', which is the Anglicization of the Koyukon
name," Kari told Live Science. The name translates to "the tall one,"
and is derived from the Koyukon verb that means, "to be long or tall,"
Autumn Denali from Mile 10 on the
park road (8-29-12)
Autumn Denali from Eielson
Visitor Center, Mile 66 on the park road (8-29-12)
But the Denali name isn't just descriptive; it's also ancient.
Like many of the original place names derived from Athabascan languages,
derivatives of "Deenaalee" may have been used by native Alaskans as
early as 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, Kari said. Variations of the name
also appear on the earliest known maps of Alaska and were recorded
(though often misspelled) by the first American geologists to explore
the region, in the 19th century, he added.
In the grand scheme of history, the peak's once-official name of
Mount McKinley was fairly short lived. In 1896, an ardent political
supporter of then-presidential candidate William McKinley started
calling the mountain Mount McKinley. The name was formally recognized by
an act of Congress in 1917, long after McKinley's assassination in 1901.
But in 1980, Congress named the area surrounding the peak Denali
National Park and Preserve.
Above and below: Denali
close-ups from Thorofare Ridge above Eielson (8-11-12)
For nearly 100 years, the name Mount McKinley appeared on federal
maps and official documents. But many people never called the mountain
by this name, said Kari, who added that the name Denali has long been
used by both native and non-native Alaskans.
In 1975, the Alaska State Legislature filed a request with the
United States Board on Geographic Names to officially rename the
mountain Denali, but congressmen from McKinley's home state of Ohio
blocked the measure. This same scenario has played out on an almost
yearly basis in Washington, D.C., with Alaska legislators requesting a
name change and Ohio legislators refuting the request.
This week's renaming of the mountain came about because U.S.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, with the approval of President Obama,
signed a secretarial order that bypassed the legislative filibuster and
granted the name change requested by Alaska's state representatives.
close-up from Thorofare Ridge above Eielson Visitor
New dusting of snow on Denali's lower slopes
"[The name change] is interesting and important on many levels,"
said Kari, who noted that the legislative fight over the name of the
mountain was just a "low-stakes political cat fight," whereas restoring
the mountain's native name was an issue that many Alaskans were truly
But Kari said, as an academic, he's most excited that the public
may now learn more about the Athabascan system of naming places and
geographical structures. The rule-driven naming system is highly
functional, he said, designed to make travel in the region more
intuitive. For instance, a river, its tributaries and the river mouth
will all have part of their names in common, so that people know the
different bodies are related to one another.
Above and below: air tour
of Denali's north and south peaks (8-7-12)
The renaming of Denali is a sign that Alaskans continue to claim
this system as their own, said Kari, who added that Alaskans are also
preserving native names in new ways.
For example, the Anchorage
convention hall in which President Obama announced Denali's name change
is called the Dena'ina Center and is named for an Athabascan
ethno-linguistic group from the Anchorage area. The five largest rooms
in the building aren't named for former presidents or anyone else —
they're named for Dena'ina villages.
Next entry: continuing the journey south --
Grande Prairie to Olds, AB
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil