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McKinley Out, Denali In: Highest Peak in North America Renamed

For more than a century, the continent's tallest mountain was named after the 25th U.S. president. Now, it's officially being changed it to Denali.
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For more than a century, the tallest mountain on the continent was named after the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley.

Now, in honor of Alaska's indigenous Athabascan people, who had always called it "Denali," President Barack Obama is changing it back, the White House said in a release Sunday.

"This designation recognizes the sacred status of Denali to generations of Alaska Natives," the release said.

The change comes after a debate between lawmakers from Alaska and Ohio, McKinley's home state. In January, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska introduced legislation that sought to officially call the mountain what Alaskans and indigenous people called it, she said — "Denali," or "the high one."

"Officially changing the name from Mount McKinley to Mount Denali will show the long-standing significance that the name Denali holds for Alaskans," she told NBC News earlier this year.

But Rep. Bob Gibbs, a Republican whose district is south of Cleveland, introduced his own bill eight days before Murkowski's in an effort to keep McKinley's name alive in Alaska.

"This landmark is a testament to his countless years of service to our country," Gibbs said in a January statement.

A gold prospector renamed the mountain "McKinley" in 1896, and the name was recognized by the federal government in 1917. In 1980, a national park that surrounds the peak was renamed Denali National Park and Preserve.

On Sunday, with the mountain itself now called Denali, Murkowsk took a victory lap.

"Today we are honored to recognize America's highest peak officially as Denali," she tweeted.