Mount Denali belongs to a long tradition of white-capped mountains named after white settlers.
This week, President Obama came to Alaska with big news. Mt. McKinley, named after the not-that-famous one-and-a-half term president in 1917, would be renamed “Denali,” the original title given to it by Alaskan natives. For many, “Denali,” meaning “the great one,” was more reflective of the mountain’s history than “man who protected the gold standard.” But the decision to rename the mountain sparked surprising controversy, with both sides accusing each other of the sin of all sins: political correctness.
But Denali isn’t an isolated case. America has a long tradition of taking American mountains, lakes, rivers, even streams (who cares about streams?) stripping them of their original native names, and replacing them with something new and fresh (read: white). While some of these fights may seem merely semantic, language carries weight and history. The act of naming is political.
Here’s a look at our glorious white-capped whitewashed history.