U.S. Rep Tim Ryan seeks to protect Mount McKinley name from change

Staff and wire reports Published:

Legislators from Alaska and Ohio disagree over what the name of North America's highest should be.

Lisa Murkowski, the senior senator from Alaska, introduced legislation this week to replace the name Mount McKinley with Denali, the traditional Alaskan name for the mountain. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, has introuduced legislation in the house to retain the mountain's current name, which honors President William McKinley, who was also a Niles native. "Mount McKinley has borne the name of our 25th President for over 100 years," Ryan said recently. "We must retain this national landmark's name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot."

Ryan said former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, a Republican from Stark County, upon retiring asked Ryan to continue efforts to preserve the name Mount McKinley. There are memorials for McKinley in Canton and Niles.

Murkowski said in an interview Tuesday that Denali might not be the name that people in the Midwest recognize "but it has long been the name in really the place that matters, which is the state that this incredible mountain sits."

"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," Murkowski said in a release. "This is the tallest mountain in North America and we deserve to have this Alaskan landmark bear an Alaskan name."

Debate over a name change goes back decades. According to a National Park Service history, McKinley was the name bestowed on the peak by William Dickey in 1896, and it stuck because of his "'discovery' account" in a newspaper in 1897. Alaska Natives, Russians and American visitors had offered names of their own for the mountain over the years.

The name Denali is an Athabascan, or Alaska Native tribe, word meaning "the high one." Mount McKinley is located in Denali National Park and Preserve.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced a version of her bill during the last Congress, and said she heard from people all over Alaska, thanking her for the effort.

"This is important to Alaska and quite honestly, it's important to the Native people, it's important to all indigenous people that we respect and honor the names and traditions," she said in an interview.

She said she expects some opposition from those who have only known the mountain as Mount McKinley but said that opposition might be softening.

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