ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Lawmakers have failed in past attempts to rename North America's highest mountain, but a new proposal may have a better chance this year under a Republican Congress, according to an aide to an Alaska lawmaker who is resurrecting the effort.
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have introduced a bill to give Mount McKinley its historical Alaska Native name.
The Alaska Republicans announced a Senate bill Wednesday to formally call the 20,320-foot mountain by its Athabascan name, Denali, KTUU reported (http://is.gd/Fp2YUQ ).
The bill comes after previous efforts by Murkowski failed. Her spokesman, Matthew Felling, said the legislation this time faces better odds with a Republican Senate majority.
"I believe that there is an understanding that Alaska should have more of a say on what happens in and to Alaska," Felling said. "In a Republican Congress, there will be more sympathy."
The mountain's current name honors the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley of Ohio, who served one full term as president before his assassination in 1901.
Murkowski and Sullivan stressed that the mountain has a longer known history with its Athabascan name, which means "the Great One" or "the High One."
"Alaskans take great pride in this gorgeous natural monument, so it is important that we grant it its ancestral name to honor and respect our heritage as well as the lands through a name that goes back centuries," Murkowski said in a statement. "This is our Alaska, and this should be our decision."
It's the latest move in a decades-long fight over the mountain's name. For years, members Ohio's congressional delegation filed measures or included language in bills to retain the name Mount McKinley.
Sullivan, who is married to an Alaska Native woman, said the Athabascan people named the mountain thousands of years ago.
"Denali absolutely belongs to Alaska and its citizens — and with all due respect to my colleagues and the good people of Ohio, where President McKinley was born and where I have many friends and family, the mountain is not theirs to name," Sullivan said in a statement. "The naming rights already went to the Alaska Native ancestors of my wife and daughters' people."
Information from: KTUU-TV, http://www.ktuu.com