Denali, Ongtupqa and other Native American names for landmarks
Assign to Google Classroom
Since 1917, the tallest mountain in North America has been known as "Mount McKinley" on official maps and registers. But on August 28, the name changed. The Department of the Interior stated 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," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. "The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975. But even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations."
Denali means "the high one." It plays a central role in the creation myth of the Koyukon Athabascas. They are Native Alaskans. They have lived in the region for centuries. That is according to a story by Julie Hirschfeld Davis for The New York Times. The mountain became known as Mount McKinley in 1896. A gold prospector came out from the wilderness. He learned that William McKinley, a defender of the gold standard, had just been nominated as a presidential candidate. Turns out, 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 highest profile cases of official mapmakers ignoring the names given to natural landmarks by Native Americans. But it is far from the only one. Here are a few of the United States' natural wonders that had 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 continuously occupied by Native American groups for almost 12,000 years. That is according to the National Parks Service. The canyon was called "Ongtupqa" in the Hopi language. It was considered a holy site and a passageway to the afterlife.
The cliffside that bears the likenesses of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln changed several times during the 19th century. The Black Hills of South Dakota, where the presidential carvings loom, was originally Sioux holy land. The mountain itself was known as "The Six Grandfathers," Nick Kirkpatrick writes for The Washington Post. While the land was promised to the Sioux by an 1868 treaty, the federal government took it back in 1877. The mountain was officially named "Mount Rushmore" in 1930 after a New York lawyer who liked to hunt in the area.
Once covering over 11,000 square miles of Florida's marshland, the Everglades were home for several Native American groups for more than 3,000 years. That included the Calusa, Seminole and Miccosukee tribes. The area originally was called Pa-hay-Okee, meaning "grassy river" in the Seminole language. The marshes were dubbed "the Everglades" by the first Englishmen to visit the region. That is according to the National Parks Service.
It is the tallest mountain in the northeast; New Hampshire's Mount Washington was once called Agiocochook, or "Home of the Great Spirit," by the Abenaki people. The mountain was first referred to as Mount Washington in 1784. That was in honor of the George Washington's military service. But it was officially named by the group of mountaineers who designated New Hampshire's Presidential Range in 1820. This is according to the Appalachian Mountain Club.
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