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September 18, 2021

Hey, Ohio! Get Your Own Mountain.

Let’s bust out the tiny sad violin for Ohio today, shall we?

Apparently, Ohio is still all butt-hurt that Alaska took our mountain back. I speak, of course, of the former Mt. McKinley named after our 24th President who neither saw the mountain, nor went to Alaska.

*Fun fact: The mountain had a name thousands of years before it got “named” McKinley. Denali is Athabascan for “the Great One.” Which it is.

Other Alaska Native names for the mountain by people in the region were: Deenaalee, Deenadheet, Deenadhee, Diineezi, Denaze, Dengadh, Dengadhi, Denadhe, Dghelaay Ce’e, Deghilaay Ce’e, Dghelay Ka’a, and Dghili Ka’a.

You’ll notice there’s nothing even close to McKinley in the bunch.

But in 1896, a random gold prospector just decided to name the mountain McKinley as political support for then-presidential candidate William McKinley, who became President the following year. And thus was erased centuries of nomenclature, tradition, and culture in the name of politics. A “political stunt,” if you will, but more on that in a minute.

The whole thing was kind of like when Europeans arrived here and were all like, “Hey, no one’s here! Cool! It’s ours!”  I hate to burst their bubble, but the land was already occupied, and the mountain already had a name, thankyouverymuch. Not that this ever stopped them before.

So, during the Obama administration (insert scary music here), and with the full support of Alaska’s entire congressional delegation, and the vast majority of Alaskans themselves, the name officially became what it was all along – Denali.

It had already been changed by The Alaska Board of Geographic Names back in 1975, but requests for the feds to follow suit were blocked by Ohio congressman Ralph Regula whose district included the city of Canton, which was McKinley’s home town. Through the years other Ohioans have stamped their feet and refused to give the mountain back – Governor John Kasich, Speaker John Boehner, Senator Rob Portman, and Congressman Bob Gibbs who all accused Obama of “Constitutional overreach.” *eye roll* Nice try, but no mountain.

But 40 years after the name debacle started, all became right with the mountain and Denali, The Great One, The Tall One, The High One, The Mountain, got its name back. And there was much rejoicing.

Then, Donald Trump came along and vowed that he would reverse this decision because, you know, Obama did it!  If Obama had given Donald Trump a kidney, by God he’d rip it out and yell “Make America Great Again!” all the way to the ER.

But I digress.

This morning it is clear and Denali is out, and I can almost… allllmost “see it from my house.” And as I sit over morning coffee, I read from Alaska journalist Dermot Cole that 11 Ohio lawmakers are all in a twist over Denali because they say:

The Obama administration acted “against the will of Congress and unilaterally ordered” the name change. “This action is disrespectful to Ohioans and President McKinley’s memory. President William McKinley’s memory should not be compromised by a political stunt,” they said.

They did this to mark McKinley’s birthday, which was not a political stunt, according to the 11.

Mr. Cole notes well the hypocrisy of the “political stunt,” but let’s go back to that “disrespectful to the memory of President McKinley” part.

McKinley, as we know, was assassinated in Buffalo, NY in September of 1901. He was shot in broad daylight in a crowd while shaking hands at the Pan-American Exposition. The Pan-American Exhibition celebrated multi-culturalism in the Americas, and our expanding outreach to the rest of the nations of North and South America. Despite multiple warnings, and a staffer who even changed his schedule to keep him from the public over fear of an assassination attempt, McKinley insisted he go and meet with the people. He was shot twice in the abdomen by an anarchist for his trouble and died nine days later.

I had the privilege of visiting Buffalo, NY a couple weeks ago, and while I was there I decided to pay actual respects to President McKinley and visit the site of his assassination. Let’s just say I was not overwhelmed by a feeling of “respect” at what I found.

The spot where McKinley gave his life while reaching out to the people at the Pan-American Exposition is now in a residential neighborhood, and the spot is marked with a smallish rock on a median in the middle of a road.

Aren’t you overwhelmed with a sense of dignity, and respect? You don’t see it? Wait…

 

There. See it now?

Yes, a plaque on a rock, with two of the saddest least-looked-after plastic flags you can possibly imagine. It was downright depressing.

AND…

If you’ll notice, Ohio had nothing to do with it. The marker was put up by the Buffalo NY Historical Society.

I see no obelisk, or monument from the people of Ohio to show respect to McKinley.

May I be so bold as to suggest to the whining lawmakers from Ohio that if Ohioans are so damned worried about showing respect for their former President, that maybe one of them could get off their ass, drive a few hours east and put a decent flag on the spot where he was assassinated? Just a thought.

But it’s probably much more expedient to hop on the colonialist bandwagon and get into a political squabble on a national level about an Alaskan mountain that pre-dated Ohio and William McKinley by millions of years, and which he never saw.

God knows they don’t want any “political stunts” right?

Get your own mountain, Ohio. Denali is doing just fine without you.

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2 Responses to “Hey, Ohio! Get Your Own Mountain.”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    Hey! Ohio!! Why don’t you rename this Mt. McKinley: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell_Hill_(Ohio)

    Yes, it’s just a hill, and not at all majestic, but it IS the highest geography in the state.

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