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Why “Denali” Is More Than Just a Name

For the Alaskan Natives living on the Flank, Denali is more than a mountain. Denali National Park photo.

The mountain has spoken, and we have listened. After over a century, North America’s highest peak will have it’s original named restored back to Denali. Following nearly a forty-year battle, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, got the go ahead from Obama to officially recognize its original name on Sunday–Denali, the native Koyukon Athabascan word meaning “the high one.”

RELATED: Step Inside TGR's Badass Alaska Backcountry Basecamp.

The dispute began in 1987 when a gold prospector attempted to rename the mountain McKinley as an act of political support for presidential candidate William McKinley. In 1917 the government officially recognized the mountain as Mt. McKinley to pay homage to the assassinated namesake. Despite the lower 48’s adoption of the new name, Alaska remained rightfully adamant about restoring it's proper name, Denali.

Obama’s approval of Senator Jewell’s effort is just a small stepping stone to repair relations between the White House and Native Americans. The symbolic gesture of restoring Denali as its original name is a crucial beginning to pay respect to Alaskan Natives traditions.

It will be a long road to nation to nation equality, but this is a start. Nick McPhee photo. 

Why should you care? TGR spends months out of the year reaping the benefits that Alaska has to offer–from its hospitality to its terrain–and it’s crucial we pay our respects to the Native Americans who have called those mountains home for generations on generations. It's a small victory for tribes like the Koyukon.

About The Author

stash member Hillary Saunders

Professional weekend warrior.