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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Regula's Folly

“Notwithstanding any other authority of law, the mountain located 63 degrees 04 minutes 12 seconds north, by 151 degrees 00 minutes 18 seconds west shall continue to be named and referred to for all purposes as Mount McKinley.”

That’s the full language of House Resolution 198, introduced January 4, on schedule, by Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula, who has sponsored legislation at the start of each new session of Congress to keep North America’s highest peak named after President William McKinley from Ohio. The bill never makes it out of committee, but Regula operates under the theory that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and other agencies won’t attempt to fiddle with the name if the issue is before Congress.

Not that there’s any big momentum outside Alaska for changing the name anyway. The state of Alaska officially switched the name of the mountain to Denali in the 1970s, and Denali National Park is also named after the local Athabaskan tag for the peak, usually translated as “The High One.” According to Jonahthan Waterman’s High Alaska, the peak has gone by many names, including Traleika, Bulshaia (a Russian name), and Densmore’s Mountain (after a local prospector). McKinley got its modern name in 1897, when another prospector campaigned to name the mountain after the 25th president, an ardent supporter of the gold standard for the U.S. economy. McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901 at the start of his second term in office, was not a bad president (he’s ranked above average on most scholars’ lists; 14 out of 40 on this Wall Street Journal survey, for example). But, if nothing else, Denali is just a much prettier name for a beautiful mountain, and most climbers prefer it. So, Congressman Regula, you may have won this time, but Denali’s day will come.


Anonymous said...

It's always amusing to me when westerners try to rename peaks that have already been named by the people with the most connection to an area. Seems pretty arrogant to me.

PJ Matt said...

I actually did a paper on this subject for a class at U. Alaska-Anchorage. The guy who named it only saw the mountain from way off, then basicly went back to new york and lied about it how he climbed it, and started pushing the name. he did it entirely as a publicity stunt for, as you mention, the arcane concept of Gold Standard politics. And McKinley never visited Alaska. the more you learn about the history, the more disgusted you feel. by the way - the highest point in Ohio, home to mcKinley, and today Regula? a random hill, on which sits a high school for 'at-risk' kids. really.