|From Wikipedia - the Great One itself|
The bill, designated S.2272, is simple and straightforward. Surprisingly, fellow Alaskan Senator Mark Begich is not a co-sponsor. Senator Murkowski offered this explanation:
“In Alaska, that mountain is referred to as something else. We don’t refer to it as Mt. McKinley we just call it 'Denali'. That’s what we’ve always called it. Denali is an Alaska Native word, an Athabascan word, and it means 'The High One'. And as you think about this incredible mountain, you think that’s pretty appropriately named. All my bill does is make that name official. I know the name Mount McKinley has some special significance to the folks in Ohio because of the President William McKinley. My response to those folks is: You’re more than welcome to go right on referring to the mountain as Mount McKinley, just as Alaskans have long referred to the mountain as Denali. All that’s changing is that the Alaskan name is becoming technically correct for an Alaskan landmark".
A companion bill offered by Sen. Murkowski at the same time is S.2273, which would rename the Talkeetna Ranger Station in Alaska as the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station. Harper, an Athabascan Indian, is the first person known to have summitted Denali, on June 7th, 1913; he was accompanied by Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens and Robert Tatum. Mark Begich has not co-sponsored this bill, either.
Both bills have been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Murkowski is the ranking Republican member.
According to Wikipedia, the Koyukon Athabaskan people who inhabited the area around Denali referred to the peak as Dinale or Denali (the high one or the great one). In the late 1890s, a gold prospector named it McKinley as political support for then-president William McKinley, even though McKinley never set foot in Alaska. The Alaska Board of Geographic Names eventually changed the name of the mountain to Denali, which is how it is referred to locally. However, a 1975 request by the Alaska state legislature to the United States Board on Geographic Names to do the same was blocked by Ohio congressman Ralph Regula, whose district includes McKinley's hometown. Members of the Ohio congressional delegation continue to block attempts by the Alaska congressional delegation to get the Board of Geographic Names to change it to Denali. Thus, Denali is correct according to the Alaska state board, while McKinley is correct according to the national board. Sen. Murkowski's bill is designed to resolve the ambiguity.
Public Reaction: Reaction, as expressed in comments to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and ADN, is surprisingly tepid; many think the issue is too trivial and that Sen. Murkowski should devote her time to more serious issues. Anticipating this reaction, Murkowski wrote “Clearly these are little bills in the big picture of things we do around here I understand that. But I also understand, as I’m sure the Chairman and my other colleagues do, that it’s the little things that sometimes matter a great deal to communities".
But even if it is a small issue, it is a welcome expression of Alaska sovereignty. It sure beats the hell out of naming it for the overrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.