Alaska-Bound, Obama Makes Waves by Renaming Mount McKinley

Josh Lederman, My Way, August 31, 2015

Shrinking glaciers, Arctic temperatures and a mix of messy energy politics await President Barack Obama on his historic trip to Alaska. Even before he departed, Obama was making waves with a decision to rename Alaska’s famed Mount McKinley despite a backlash from Ohio politicians.

Obama flies to Anchorage on Monday morning for a three-day tour of the nation’s largest state, closely choreographed to call attention to the ways Obama says climate change is already damaging Alaska’s stunning scenery. By showcasing thawing permafrost, melting sea ice and eroding shorelines, Obama hopes to raise the sense of urgency to deal quickly to slow climate change in the U.S. and overseas.

His excursion north of the Arctic Circle will make Obama the first sitting president to step foot in the Alaska Arctic, home to Alaska Natives who have received less attention amid Obama’s recent efforts to improve conditions for Native Americans. In a major show of solidarity, Obama announced on the eve of his trip that his administration is changing the name of North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley, to Denali, its traditional Athabascan name.

Obama’s move to strip the mountain of its name honoring former President William McKinley, a son of Ohio, drew loud condemnations from Ohio lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, who said he was “deeply disappointed” in the decision.

“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,” added Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio.

In renaming 20,320-foot Mount McKinely as Denali, Obama was instating a moniker Alaskans have informally used for centuries. The name means “the high one” in Athabascan.

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After touching down in Anchorage in the afternoon, Obama was to hold a listening session with Alaska Natives before speaking at the climate-focused Arctic summit, which involves leaders from Arctic and non-Arctic nations. {snip}

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