Denali, Ongtupqa and other Native American names for landmarks President Barack Obama on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015 said he's changing the name of the tallest mountain in North America from Mount McKinley to Denali. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Denali, Ongtupqa and other Native American names for landmarks
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The tallest mountain in North America is Mount McKinley. It has been known as Mount McKinley since 1917. That is what is on official maps and registers. But that changed on August 28. On that day the name changed. The Department of the Interior said that the 20,237-foot peak would once again be officially known as Denali. It is the name it held for thousands of years.
 
"This name change recognizes the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives." That is what Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. "The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975. But the mountain has been known as Denali for generations."
 
Denali means "the high one." It plays an important role in the creation myth of the Koyukon Athabascas. They are Native Alaskans. They have lived in the area for centuries. That is according to a story by Julie Hirschfeld Davis. She works for The New York Times. 

The mountain became known as Mount McKinley in 1896. A gold prospector had just left the wilderness. He learned that William McKinley had just been named a presidential candidate. McKinley was a defender of the gold standard. But, McKinley was shot just six months into his first term. He never set foot in Alaska. But the name stuck.
 
Denali is one of the most well known cases. Official mapmakers ignored some names given to natural landmarks. The names were given by Native Americans. But it is far from the only case. 

Here are a few of the United States' natural wonders that had different names for centuries. The names were used before Europeans set foot in the Americas.
 
The Grand Canyon.
 
It is the second-most visited national park in the country. And it is one of the United States' most iconic natural landmarks. 

The Grand Canyon has been home to Native American groups for almost 12,000 years. That is according to the National Parks Service. 

The canyon was called "Ongtupqa." That is in the Hopi language. It was thought to be a holy site and a pathway to the afterlife.
 
Mount Rushmore.
 
The cliffside has the carved faces of four presidents. They are of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. And also Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. The name changed many times during the 19th century. 

The mountain is in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was originally Sioux holy land. The mountain was known as "The Six Grandfathers." That is what Nick Kirkpatrick writes for The Washington Post. 

The land was promised to the Sioux by an 1868 treaty. But, it was taken back by the federal government in 1877. The mountain was officially named "Mount Rushmore" in 1930. It was named after a New York lawyer who liked to hunt in the area.
 
The Everglades.
 
The area once covered over 11,000 square miles of Florida's marshland. The Everglades were home to several Native American groups for more than 3,000 years. They included the Calusa and Seminole tribes. And also the Miccosukee tribe. 

The area was first called Pa-hay-Okee. It means "grassy river." That is in the Seminole language. The marshes were called "the Everglades" by the first Englishmen to visit the area. That is according to the National Parks Service.
 
Mount Washington.
 
It is the tallest mountain in the northeast. New Hampshire's Mount Washington was once called Agiocochook by the Abenaki people. That means "Home of the Great Spirit." 

The mountain was first called Mount Washington in 1784. That was in honor of George Washington's military service. It was officially named by a group of mountaineers. They designated New Hampshire's Presidential Range in 1820. This is according to the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is changing the mountain's name back to Denali important to the people of Alaska?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (47)
  • danielj-1-ver
    9/14/2015 - 07:46 a.m.

    The story was about the History of the mountain and what the first name stand for and what it means.

  • hamzahs-1-ver
    9/15/2015 - 09:08 a.m.

    Because it shows the importance of the native americans and there homeland name is more important than to name it on a name of a president. The Alaska provience was an important area for early native americans and denali refers to them.

  • lillyc.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 06:13 p.m.

    It is important to the people because I think they like that name and so do I.

  • alessandrod.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 06:37 p.m.

    It is important that to the people in Alaska. Because people in Alaska have lived there for centuries .

  • jackieh.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 06:53 p.m.

    I think Alaska people is happy because they maybe think it is boring name but it is not. Or they want to make the Alaska people happy.

  • austinn.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 07:48 p.m.

    I think changing the mountain's name back to Denali is important to the people of Alaska because according to the text it said it plays an important role in the creation myth of the Koyukon Athabascas. They are Native Alaskans.

  • miar.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 08:12 p.m.

    The changing of the mountain's name is important to the
    people of Alaska because it was a sacred name to the natives. Denali means "the high one". It plays an important role in the creation myth of Native Alaskans.

  • zidanm.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 08:55 p.m.

    Changing the mountain's name back to Denali was importamt to the people of Alaska because it has been named by the Native Alaskans for thousands of years. Within the reading i found a statement by Sally Jewell saying "The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975. But the mountain has been known as Denali for generations."

  • christinel.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 09:11 p.m.

    According to the text Denali mean "the high one."It plays an important role in the creation myth of the Koyukon Athabascas.They are native Alaskans.They have lived the area for centaries.

  • eddiec.-cas
    10/22/2015 - 10:17 p.m.

    It's important because it recognizes the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives. Denali means "the high one." It plays an important role in the creation myth of the Koyukon Athabascas, who are the Native Alaskans.

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