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Alaska's Mount McKinley renamed to traditional Denali, 'Great One'

By Andrew V. Pestano
Alaska's Mount McKinley renamed to traditional Denali, 'Great One'
The name of Mount McKinley has been changed to Denali, to reflect the traditional name of Alaska's native Koyukon Athabascan people. File photo by bcampbell65/Shutterstock

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama along with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell have changed the controversial name of Alaska's Mount McKinley to the traditional native name of Denali.

Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, is the highest mountain in North America with its summit at more than 20,000 feet. The mountain is located on the Denali National Park and Reserve, which was previously known as the Mount McKinley National Park until 1980.

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The name change was announced Sunday and performed under a secretarial order by Jewell, which was endorsed by Obama.

"Jewell is granted the authority to make such changes in certain cases per the 1947 federal law that provides for the standardization of geographic names through the U.S. Board on Geographic Names," the U.S. Department of Interior said in a statement.

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The mountain's name in the Alaska Native Koyukon Athabascan language means "Great One." The state of Alaska formally requested for a name change in 1975.

Denali National Park and Reserve was established in 1917 and has more than 500,000 annual visitors.

"For centuries, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as the 'Great One.' Today we are honored to be able to officially recognize the mountain as Denali," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement. "I'd like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska."

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The mountain was previously named after former President William McKinley, who served from 1897 until he was assassinated in 1901 -- just six months into his second term.

"President McKinley is a well-respected American hero who deserves to be honored and I hope my colleagues will join with me in stopping this constitutional overreach," U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "President Obama has decided to ignore an act of Congress in unilaterally renaming [Mount] McKinley in order to promote his job-killing war on energy."

McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio, and later became the governor of the state.

"This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans," Gibbs added.

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