Denali, Ongtupqa and other Native American names for landmarks
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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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.
 
Mount Rushmore
 
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.
 
The Everglades
 
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.
 
Mount Washington
 
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.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/denali-ongtupqa-and-other-native-american-names-landmarks/

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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 (134)
  • melissaj-Ste
    9/15/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    To be honest, I'm not actually surprised about all famous landmarks in America actually have different names. The Native Americans were the original Americans, so they most likely had their own names for mountains and other places. Native American culture is so foreign in its own country; it makes me angry thinking about this genocide our ancestors forced upon Native Americans East to West.

  • koby-gau
    9/15/2015 - 02:19 p.m.

    It means alot to the natives because it plays a central role in their creation. Would be like taking the creator out of the creation.

  • John0724-YYCA
    9/15/2015 - 08:11 p.m.

    I never knew that you can change a name of a mountain because then I think it would be confusing but I guess people remember it so fast. And I think the Native Americans like it to.

  • lucasl-3-bar
    9/15/2015 - 08:50 p.m.

    By changing the mountain from McKinley back to Denali, the United States government is recognizing the importance of the mountain and its identity to the Native Americans. As stated by the article, changing the the mountain's name to Denali restores its sacred status to the people of Alaska, and thus, its meaning.

    I found this article very interesting and surprising. The facts it provided taught me about the history of many landmarks in North America, and their importance to the Native Americans. What surprised me was that the U.S. government has refused to recognize the Native American connection to these important sites.

  • beccad-kne
    9/16/2015 - 10:20 a.m.

    Because it belongs to the native people.

  • caymanm-2-bar
    9/16/2015 - 09:31 p.m.

    Changing the name of the mountain back to Denali reminds the natives of its importance. Secretary Sally Jewell said, "This name change recognizes the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives". I thought this article was important.

  • sierrab-ste
    9/16/2015 - 10:48 p.m.

    It's good that they changed the name back to what was sacred to the Alaskan Natives, but if they knew that it meant so much to the Alaskans in the first place, then why did they change it in the first place? Now you're just confusing and annoying people with changing the name back to the first original name. Once you give a place a name, you need to keep it that. Especially when people all over the world know about this landmark and do research and stuff like that on it.

  • jacieb-was
    9/17/2015 - 10:15 a.m.

    I think changing the name back to Denali is important to the people of Alaska because it's like a memorial for the brave people that lived in the frozen state. There weren't many Indians that lived in Alaska, some froze to death or couldn't find enough food to survive, so I think the government made a good choice changing it back to Denali.

  • alexism-1-was
    9/17/2015 - 12:24 p.m.

    Why is the changing Mt. McKinley back to Denali is important to the people of Alaska. Because the mountain has been called Denali for generations. Also the name Denali has been in Alaska since 1975. So I think that it means a lot to the people of Alaska to changing the name back to Denali.

  • katiea-was
    9/17/2015 - 12:31 p.m.

    Changing the mountains name back to Denali is important because the mountains name is sacred because its been used for such a long time.Another reason is because it was used by so many Alaskan natives.The mountains older name was also in many mythes like "Koy Ukon Athabascas".

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