By Erica Martinson
With the approval of President Barack Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has signed a “secretarial order” to officially change the name, the White House and Interior Department announced Sunday. The announcement comes roughly 24 hours before Obama touches down in Anchorage for a whirlwind tour of Alaska.
Talk of the name change has swirled in Alaska this year since the National Park Service officially registered no objection in a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.
The tallest mountain in North America has long been known to Alaskans as Denali, its Koyukon Athabascan name, but its official name was not changed with the creation of Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, 6 million acres carved out for federal protection under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The state changed the name of the park’s tallest mountain to Denali at that time, but the federal government did not.
By Josh Lederman, Mark Thiessen
He's giving the mountain its traditional Alaska Native name on the eve of a historic presidential visit to Alaska.
Denali is an Athabascan word meaning "the high one." The name has long been a sore spot for Alaskans, who have informally called the 20,320-foot mountain Denali for years.
The mountain was named after former President William McKinley. There have been several efforts by Alaska politicians change it to Denali. But politicians from McKinley's home state of Ohio have opposed changing the name.
Comment: For more on Denali, see Athabascan First to Climb Denali and Murkowski Proposes Renaming Mt. McKinley.