Obama Will Rename Alaska's Mt. McKinley, U.S. Tallest, as Denali

Obama Heads to Alaska to Tackle Pressing Energy Issues
  • Restoration of Native Alaskan Name Precedes President's Trip
  • Obama Will Be First President to Visit Alaskan Arctic

The tallest U.S. mountain, Alaska’s Mount McKinley, will be renamed Denali, President Barack Obama said Sunday.

The move, on the eve of Obama’s visit to the state, swaps a traditional Alaskan title -- one now commonly used by residents and visitors to the national park of the same name -- with that of the 25th U.S. president, Republican William McKinley, who was from Ohio.

The peak, which stands 20,237 feet (6,096 meters) above sea level, is being renamed to reflect the heritage of Alaskan Natives, the White House said. Denali is the traditional Athabascan name for the mountain, and means “the great one.”

Obama will be the first president to visit the Alaskan Arctic during his three-day trip, which includes a hiking tour of the Exit Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula, near the town of Seward.

The visit will also include a tour of the glaciers aboard a Coast Guard Cutter ship, and a meeting with local fishermen who are protesting efforts to build a gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay. Obama will also visit Kotzebue, where he plans to meet with local tribes about the impact of coastal erosion on their communities.

Obama said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell used her authority to rename the mountain. Jewell is also headed to Alaska, and will deliver remarks on climate change at an Arctic conference in Anchorage on Monday.

McKinley “never visited, nor did he have any significant historical connection to, the mountain or to Alaska,” the Interior Department said in its order.

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