The story as I understand it — for some time, Alaska has wanted Mount McKinley to be renamed Denali, its original indigenous name. In fact, as far as the state of Alaska is concerned, the mountain is Denali, not Mount McKinley. Since the mountain is part of a national park, the state couldn’t rename the mountain itself. So now the White House said, sure, we can call it Denali.
And the Right is throwing a typical rightie fit. The Ohio delegation to Congress is particularly incensed. Republicans — well, Republicans who are not from Alaska — are claiming that the White House can’t approve such a name change without congressional consent.
So much for states’ rights. Shouldn’t this be between Alaska and the federal government?
Every year, the same story plays out in Washington, D.C.: Alaska legislators sometimes file bills 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.
Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation said they were happy with the action.
“Iâ€™d like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska,â€ Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a video statement recorded on the Ruth Glacier below the mountain.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said in an email that “Denali belongs to Alaska and its citizens. The naming rights already went to ancestors of the Alaska Native people, like those of my wifeâ€™s family. For decades, Alaskans and members of our congressional delegation have been fighting for Denali to be recognized by the federal government by its true name. Iâ€™m gratified that the president respected this.â€
According to the order Jewell signed, there is a policy of deferring action while a matter is under consideration by Congress. So the Ohio delegationâ€™s annual legislative efforts have stalled any federal movement. But the law does allow the interior secretary to take action when the board naming doesnâ€™t act â€œwithin a reasonable amount of time,â€ the order said.
â€œIt’s something (former Alaska Gov. Jay Hammond)Â 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,â€ Jewell said.
As interior secretary, she has authority to make a unilateral decision after a â€œreasonable time has passed,â€ Jewell said.
On right-wing sites, the trolls are certain that the President himself called for the name change because McKinley was white. The Ohio congressional delegation has the vapors. Somewhere, someone suggested Ohio name one of its own mountains after McKinley. Heh. I checked; the highest point in Ohio is called Campbell Hill, and it’s a whopping 1,550 feet high, compared to Denali’s 20,237 feet. A 1,550 foot peak is about right for McKinley, though, I’d say.
Next up: I’m sure there’s a meltdown on Fox News; Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity will make it a racial issue if they can’t figure out a way to tie it into the war on Christmas. Someone will note that “Denali” sounds African. Someone else will try to get a federal court to block the name change. All of the presidential candidates will be asked their opinions. No one in the press will press the Republicans about states’ rights, however. Because that’s how it always is.