What is the official name of Mt. McKinley?
Unbeknownst to some, Mt. McKinley is actually not the official name of the American continent’s highest peak. In fact, in August 2015 the peak’s name was officially changed to Denali, meaning “The Great One” in Koyukon. The Koyukon are a group of people that live in an area north of the mountain and this naming dispute is not a recent debate.
The argument over what the mountain should be called dates back to the 1970s when the Alaska Legislature submitted a request to the federal government to officially change the name from Mount McKinley to Denali. The mountain had originally been unofficially named Mount McKinley in 1896 by a gold prospector, and it wasn’t until years later in 1917 that the U.S. government formally recognized that title as a way to commemorate the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley, who had been assassinated in 1901.
For the next 98 years, Mount McKinley remained the name of the mountain until 2015 when President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell took action, renaming the mountain, Denali. Secretary Jewell cited a 1947 law that empowers the Secretary of Interior to use authority when the USBGN (US Board on Geographic Names) “does not act within a reasonable time” as a justification to make the change.