In another move that appears to be an excuse to rollback an Obama-era decision, President Donald Trump asked Alaskan senators if he could change the name of the tallest mountain in North America back to Mount McKinley from Denali, the native Alaskan name.
During a meeting with Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zine, Alaskan senators brought up some decisions made by then-President Barack Obama that they felt hurt Alaska,” the Alaska Dispatch News reported. After each one, Trump asked Zinke, “Can we change that and help Alaska?”
Trump then asked about the name change of the massive peak.
"He looked at me and said, 'I heard that the big mountain in Alaska also had —also its name was changed by executive action. Do you want us to reverse that?'" Sullivan said, CNN reported.
Obama issued an executive order and the federal government changed the name Mount McKinley back to the original name Denali in 2015.
"Lisa — Sen. Murkowski — and I jumped over the desk. We said no, no!" said U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, who is originally from Ohio, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.
When Trump asked why, Sullivan said he told him: "The Alaska Native people named that mountain over 10,000 years ago. Denali, that was the name."
Fun fact: Former President William McKinley, a Republican from Ohio, never visited Alaska.
“This action recognizing a native language, recognizing something that Alaskans wanted to do for a long, long time ... does speak well in his legacy and treatment of Native Americans in general,” said Ed Alexander, a board member of Gwich’in Council International, Politico reported in 2015 after Obama’s order was issued. “He’s the first president to have a White House tribal summit annually. It really shows that level of respect.”
Trump made a campaign promise in March 2016 after Obama’s executive order.
“President Obama wants to change the name of Mount McKinley to Denali after more than 100 years. Great insult to Ohio. I will change back!” he tweeted.
Alaskans weren’t thrilled.
“We wanted that change for a long time, and now we finally have it, and we need to leave it alone,” Victor Joseph, president of Tanana Chiefs Conference, told the Associated Press in November. “It was an insult to the first people of this land when they took away the name and gave it to somebody else.”
The more than 20,000-foot peak was given the name McKinley before the 25th president took office. Alaska was a large producer of gold at the time and McKinley’s Democratic rival in the 1896 election, William Jennings Bryan, was campaigning on a promise to set the nation’s currency to silver, rather than gold, Politico reported.
Dana Wright is a descendant of one of the first people to climb Denali. He climbed the mountain in 2013 to call attention to the cause of changing the name.
“In terms of things he could do, this probably took very little effort but had a big impact for a lot of people,” Wright said of Obama. “If he hadn’t done this, it probably would’ve gone back and forth in Congress forever.”
CNN anchor Don Lemon said on the air this month that Trump is “making it his mission to undo every last bit of the Obama legacy,” Newsweek reported.
Political analyst David Gergen replied that Trump’s recent decisions were “more about blowing up the former president’s legacy than anybody wants to admit.”