ANCHORAGE, Alaska While it's more complicated than the age-old debate of “tomato” versus “tomatto,” the naming rights argument over North America’s highest peak can be just as divisive. One mountain, historically known by two names.
Lawmakers from Ohio have reignited the debate over what to call the mountain Athabaskans have known as Denali, meaning "the high one," for thousands of years.
It was only 100 years ago that Congress acted to recognize President William McKinley's service to the United States by naming the mountain in his honor. On the former president's birthday, 11 lawmakers from the Buckeye State recently announced they wanted to see the name of the mountain changed back in honor of the former Ohio Native and former U.S. president.
"Alaskans take great pride in this mountain and what it represents to Alaskans," said Senator Lisa Murkowski, (R)-Alaska.
A letter was recently sent to President Donald Trump’s desk from the Ohio Congressional Delegation, saying the name means quite a bit to them, too. In the letter, the group of lawmaker’s claims the Obama Administration acted against the will of Congress and unilaterally ordered the name of Mount McKinley be changed to Denali. The Ohioans are hoping the President would keep a campaign promise he made.
In a tweet from 2015, it was then candidate Donald Trump who wrote, “President Obama wants to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali after more than 100 years. Great insult to Ohio. I will change it back!”
Secretary of the interior Ryan Zinke told KTUU's Washington Bureau this week, there have never been plans to change the name back to Mt. McKinley.
"That's the first time I’ve heard that. When I was up there, I think folks are good with Denali. I talked to the senators a lot, and of course your great Representative Don Young. I think everyone's comfortable with where it's at, but I have not heard that," said Secretary Zinke.
Since taking office, President Trump himself told the Alaska delegation that the mountain's name will not change, after lawmakers told the President they prefer “Denali.” But Ohio's delegation is still pushing, trying to convince the Trump Administration to change the name back, despite what Alaskans want.
It's not just lawmakers that get emotionally stirred up on this topic. It's a sensitive issue for many who live in the last frontier. On Friday, Manley Volunteer Fire Chief Terry Russell resigned after using a racial slur while making comments on a social media network. He said the mountain will always be Mount McKinley to him.