Poor William McKinley. The 25th president of the United States who had his second term cut short thanks to assassination (which happened here in Buffalo and led to a certain bull moose rising to power) is once again embroiled in what one might describe as an—ahem—uphill battle. Apparently Alaskans want to boot him off of his namesake mount.
The tallest peak in North America has gone by many names over the years, but became Mount McKinley in 1896 because a certain William Dickey identified it as such in a newspaper account. Mr. Dickey bestowed this particular honor upon McKinley in reaction to the times. (U.S. politicos were embroiled in the gold-standard/silver-standard debate. Then Republican presidential nominee McKinley and Dickey were firmly on the gold-standard side as opposed to Democratic nominee William “Cross of Gold” Jennings Bryan.) But now the name debate is less about gold versus silver and more about Alaska versus Ohio.
Back in 1975, Alaska took local control and renamed the mountain Denali, which comes from a Alaskan native tribe language and means “high one.” Since the change was only within Alaska, no one had a problem with it. But when the governor of Alaska pushed to have the U.S. Board on Geographic Names—yes that is a real thing—make the change as well, the situation got rocky. That was when Ohio came into the mix with a resounding no. Ohio wasn’t about to let one of its well-regarded sons lose a namesake. In particular, Ohio Representative Ralph Regula fought to prevent the name change until his retirement in 2009. Current Ohio Representative Tim Ryan appears to be ready to continue the fight to keep McKinley’s name on top.
Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski insists the current legislation to name swap is nothing personal against McKinley, but instead a preference to “have this peak be called by the name it has gone by for centuries by Alaskans than a man who never set foot in our state.” Somewhere, I’m pretty sure that William Jennings Bryan is pleased.Tags: Congress, Denali, Legislation, Mount McKinley, Naming Dispute, William McKinley