September 01, 2015

Denali: Americans Have no Aversion to Indian Place Names.

Why the sudden urgency to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali? To judge the rhetoric, one might think that, historically, Americans have had some sort of aversion to employing Indian words when naming important American places. However, history teaches us this does not seem to be the case.

America has thousands of Indian, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian place names including the names of nearly half its states, including my native state of Massachusetts. The others are: Connecticut, Delaware, Alabama; Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas; Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa; N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Wisconsin; Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois; Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky; Tennessee, Utah, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii.

The other odd thing is that Mt. McKinley has been located in the Denali National Park and Preserve established in 1917. One could see if there was some aversion to using the word Denali, but there obviously wasn’t, indicating naming (re-naming) the mountain, Mt. McKinley, wasn’t done out of some form of racism. In other words: it doesn’t appear there was any great injustice to correct.

So, what is one left with? Politics. Plain and simple, President Obama needed a prop to enhance an Alaska visit that will make him the first sitting U.S. president to travel above the Arctic Circle, where he will drone on about the horrors of Global Warm… uh, Climate Change… blah, blah, blah.

While I happen to prefer the name Denali, there are some interesting issues to consider regarding this presidential, political maneuver: If it took an act of congress to create the name, how is it right for a president to unilaterally change it simply for political expediency, and to couch the move as some sort of overdue repair of some historical, racial slight? Mt. McKinley/Denali has also been known by other Alaskan native names besides Denali—so, why Denali? Is this fair to other natives who knew (know) the mountain by another name?

Mr. Obama has demonstrated time and again he is no fan of any of America’s venerable traditions–except, perhaps, for dirty politics. He seems to have no respect for American traditions, which is bad enough, but he also seems to have no respect for our constitutional government or established laws.


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