18 Sep From Denali to McKinley to Denali
U.S. Place Names Tell You Who’s in Power
The highest peak in North America now has a new old name. Following decades-long efforts by Alaska lawmakers, and a recent order by the secretary of the interior, President Obama has restored Mount McKinley to Denali, its traditional Koyukon Athabascan name. Replaced is a name given by a prospector in 1896 for the soon-to-be 25th president of the United States, a man who never set foot in Alaska. Some congressmen don’t like the change.
Names wield power. One can say Ohio or Yosemite or badlands without thinking—so embedded are they in American vocabulary. But to consider place-names as givens is to see a reflecting surface and not what lies beneath.