Century after peak first scaled, Alaska mountain's name still disputed

Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:07pm EDT
 
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By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A century after the first climber reached the summit of North America's tallest peak, a growing movement of Alaskans is seeking to have it renamed Denali, a moniker meaning "the High One" that is traditionally used by Native Alaskans.

The 20,320-foot (6,194-metre) peak is officially named "Mount McKinley" after the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley, although many mountain climbers and locals refer to it by the name used by the region's Athabascan people.

"This is the tallest mountain in North America and we deserve to have this Alaskan landmark bear an Alaskan name," Alaska Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement announcing her introduction of a bill in January that would officially designate the mountain as Denali.

Previous efforts to rename the peak, including an earlier attempt by Murkowski, did not succeed.

The McKinley name has been ardently guarded for decades by Ohio politicians, who say it is a fitting tribute to the Ohioan who was president from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

Former U.S. Representative Ralph Regula, an 18-term Republican whose district included McKinley's hometown of Canton, was the most prominent defender, often using the appropriations process to block any name changes.

When he retired in 2009, younger Ohioans took up the cause. U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, has introduced his own bill to preserve the mountain's McKinley name.

"We must retain this national landmark's name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot," Ryan said in a statement.   Continued...

 
Undated handout photo courtesy of the National Park Service shows Mount McKinley in Alaska. A century after the first climber reached the summit of North America's tallest peak, a growing movement of Alaskans is seeking to have it renamed Denali, a moniker meaning "the High One" that is traditionally used by Native Alaskans. REUTERS/National Park Service/Tim Rains/Handout