Sen. Lisa 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.”
Ohio is the birthplace of President William McKinley, and for years, members of that state’s congressional delegation have filed measures or included language in bills to retain the name Mount McKinley. One such bill was introduced last week by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who said in a release Tuesday that the name must be retained “in order to honor the legacy of this great American President and patriot.”
Also, few people know anything about Mt. McKinley. Of those few, even fewer associate it with President McKinley. All told, we're talking about something like 1% of 1%.
In other words, only 1 in 10,000 people thinks, "It's so wonderful that they named Mt. McKinley after William McKinley, our 25th president, who 'led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry, and maintained the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of inflationary proposals'" (source: Wikipedia). To everyone else, the name is just some anonymous old name.
As usual, debates over geographic name changes show America's white privilege in action. Why should the thousandth use of the name "McKinley" trump the first and only use of the name "Denali"? Why don't the local people with historical ties to the mountain have the primary say? Because white people feel they deserve to get everything they want, no matter how unreasonable it is.
For more on the subject, see Renaming Mt. Rainier and Restoring Traditional Indian Names.