JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — One Obama administration action may be safe under President Donald Trump — the long-sought renaming of North America’s tallest peak to Denali.
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said the Alaska mountain came up during an hourlong meeting he and fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski had with Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in March.
Sullivan said during a weekend speech to the Alaska Federation of Natives that Trump asked if the senators thought the name change from Mount McKinley to Denali should be reversed, the Alaska Public Radio Network reported . Sullivan said both senators emphatically said no. Trump asked why.
“And I said, ‘Well, Mr. President, with all due respect to previous presidents, Alaska Native people named that mountain over 10,000 years ago. And by the way, that was the Athabascan people, and my wife’s Athabascan, and if you change that name back now she’s gonna be really, really mad,'” Sullivan said. “So he was like, ‘All right, we won’t do that.'”
The state spent decades trying to get the mountain recognized as Denali, an Athabascan word meaning “the high one” that Alaskans widely used.
The late U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio — the birthplace of President William McKinley — led a protracted fight to keep the mountain named for the 25th president. Others kept up the battle when he left office.
In 2015, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued an order changing the name to Denali.
As a presidential candidate, Trump tweeted his displeasure with the action, calling it an insult to Ohio and saying he would change it back.
During the March meeting, Trump did not express a desire to change the name back but simply asked if it was something he should do, Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Petersen said in an email Tuesday.
Murkowski considers the matter settled, Petersen said.
State historian Jo Antonson said she does not think the name will be changed again, saying it would be deeply unpopular with Alaskans.
“But anything can be changed,” she said.