Denali: The mountain of many names

Denali Source:

We know it as Mount McKinley; Alaskan tribes know it as Denali, meaning “The Great One.” The highest mountain in North America has been known by many names.

When Alaska was under Russian control, it was known as “Bolshaya Gora,” “Bolshaya” meaning big, “Gora” meaning mountain.

The mountain used to be known as Densmore’s Mountain in the late 1880s and early 1890s, named after Frank Densmore, an Alaskan prospector who was the first European to reach the base of the mountain.

It’s most recent name was bestowed upon it in 1896 in honor of the presidential candidate William McKinley. And now, it’s being renamed once again.

In 1975 the Alaska Board of Geographic Names changed Mount McKinley back to Denali, which is what the mountain was known as locally. Protests directed at the government of the United States were started by Alaskan politicians demanding that the mountain’s name be restored to its original Alaskan title.

Ohio protested back. President McKinley was from their state, and Congressman Ralph Regula felt that it would be rude and dishonorable to rename a mountain that had been named in a President’s honor.

On August 28th, 2015, Sally Jewell signed the order to change Mount McKinley back to its original name. Say “hello” to Denali; The Great One is back.

Following a long battle between states, the Secretary of the Interior caved. The battle was won. And may the Tall One keep standing.


-Eilidh MacDonald

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