White House renames Mount McKinley as Denali on eve of trip

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White House renames Mount McKinley as Denali on eve of trip

Updated 10:16 pm, Tuesday, September 1, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will change the name of North America’s tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, the White House said Sunday, a major symbolic gesture to Alaska Natives on the eve of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Alaska.

By renaming the peak Denali, an Athabascan word meaning “the high one,” Obama waded into a sensitive and decades-old conflict between residents of Alaska and Ohio. Alaskans have informally called the mountain Denali for years, but the federal government recognizes its name invoking the 25th president, William McKinley, who was born in Ohio and assassinated early in his second term.

“With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Ohio politicians reacted angrily, although it wasn’t immediately clear if or how they could stop it. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said McKinley deserved to be honored, and invited his colleagues to join him to try to block what he called Obama’s “constitutional overreach.”

“This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans, and I will be working with the House Committee on Natural Resources to determine what can be done to prevent this action,” Gibbs said.

The announcement came as Obama prepared to open a three-day visit to Alaska aimed at infusing fresh urgency into his call to action on climate change. To the dismay of some Alaska Republicans, the White House has choreographed the trip to showcase melting glaciers and other cherished natural wonders in Alaska that Obama says are threatened by warmer temperatures.

But Obama’s visit is also geared toward displaying solidarity with Alaska Natives, who face immense economic challenges and have warned of insufficient help from the federal government. As his first stop after arriving in Anchorage on Monday, Obama planned to hold a listening session with Alaska Natives. The president was also expected to announce new steps to help Alaska Native communities on Wednesday when he becomes the first sitting president to visit the Alaska Arctic. Read More…

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