President Obama will change the name of North America’s tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali during his three-day trip to Alaska this week, the White House said Sunday.
Mount McKinley — the 20,237-foot mountain and the tallest in North America — is being officially recognized as Denali, which it was originally known as by Alaska Natives before it was renamed to honor the 25th president, William McKinley, who was born in Ohio and assassinated early in his second term.
The mountain, which sits in the 6 million-acre Denali national park, has been known as Denali in Alaska since 1975.
There has been a sensitive and decades-old conflict between residents of Alaska and Ohio over the names Denali, which is an Athabascan word meaning “the high one,” and Mount McKinley.
The White House noted that McKinley never visited Alaska, and said the site is significant culturally to Alaska Natives and central to the Athabascan creation story.
Under an order signed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the Denali name will also take effect for all federal usage and, therefore, on all official maps.
The order was signed Friday, but the White House asked that it be announced Monday as part of Obama’s trip to Alaska that will regard the effects of climate change in the Arctic.
The announcement came as Obama prepared to depart early Monday on a three-day visit to Alaska, becoming the first sitting president to travel north of the Arctic Circle.
As part of his visit, Obama is attempting to show solidarity with Alaska Natives, and planned to hold a round-table session with a group of Alaska Natives just after arriving Monday in Anchorage.