Murkowski Urges Colleagues to Alaskanize Mount McKinley, Talkeetna Ranger Station

Senator: “We don’t refer to it as Mount McKinley. We just call it ‘Denali’”

Senator Lisa Murkowski today pushed for support of her bill that would officially restore the nation’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley, to its traditional Interior Alaska Athabascan name: Denali.  In a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee, she also advocated for her legislation that would rename the Talkeetna Ranger Station after the first man to summit Denali: Walter Harper.

“My two bills both focus on probably the most storied and photographed geographic feature certainly in Alaska, and perhaps in the country.  Mount McKinley is the tallest mountain in the United States, and we as Alaskans aren’t shy about reminding folks about how big and how beautiful it is and that it’s ours.

“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.

"My other bill, S. 2273 is also a re-naming piece of legislation, and also revolves around the history of Denali.  Next June will mark the 100 year anniversary of the first successful summit of the mountain, and it’s probably well past time that we did something to permanently honor the man who did that: Walter Harper, an Alaska Native. He was the first person to reach the summit of Denali and he did it on June 7th, 1913.  So what this legislation does is it renames the Talkeetna Ranger Station in Alaska to the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station.  This is the station that anybody who is planning on climbing Denali must first stop at to get their permit and mountain orientation.  It only seems fitting to me that hopeful Denali climbers get their mountain orientation at a building named for the first man to ever successfully do the same climb.

“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.  Making Denali, the name Alaskans use anyway, the official name of America’s tallest mountain means something to Alaska.  Honoring a man like Walter Harper by renaming the ranger station that serves as the base for all National Parks operations in Denali National Park also means something.”